Woman on her laptop on Facebook.

Facebook Settles PTSD Content Moderator Claims for $52 million

By Douglas Lipsky

Facebook has agreed to pay $52 million to thousands of content moderators who suffered psychological harm after reviewing posts depicting acts of suicide, murder, child abuse and other disturbing content. 

The case may prompt content moderators who have suffered similar harm at other social media companies (e.g. YouTube, Twitter) to file lawsuits. Given the complex legal issues involved in such cases, it takes a skilled employment lawyer to protect your rights.

Are Employers Required To Compensate Workers For Their Trauma?

The landmark settlement, which encompasses more than 10,000 individuals, applies to any U.S.-based content moderator employed by a third-party company providing services to Facebook and its subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram. Facebook is the first social media company that has been required to compensate workers for trauma associated with reviewing content. 

The lead plaintiff sued Facebook in 2018, alleging she suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after working as a content moderator reviewing disturbing content, including rape, murder and animal cruelty. Another plaintiff who joined the lawsuit claimed Facebook failed to provide her with adequate support and counseling after reviewing a post of the gang rape of a teenage girl. 

The complaint argued that Facebook and the companies with which it contracts to hire content moderators failed to provide workers with a safe work environment or compensate them for the psychological harm they endured as a result of reviewing disturbing content. 

Social media companies have a global workforce of content moderators who are hired through a network of third-party vendors. Content moderators at Facebook have complained about their unfair treatment in chat rooms, and some workers claim they have faced retaliation for complaining to the company. Workers have reported suffering from PTSD and other types of psychological harm, such as paranoia and sleep disorders. 

Facebook initially tried to quash the complaint but ultimately negotiated a settlement in which it denied any wrongdoing. Under the terms of the settlement, Facebook will pay every content moderator who worked for the company since 2015 at least $1,000. In addition, any worker diagnosed with PTSD from reviewing content is eligible to receive up to $50,000 in damages.

The Takeaway

While the settlement will have little impact on the social media giant’s balance sheet, workers will be provided with financial compensation for the psychological harm they have endured. Whether this will lead to changes in how content moderators at Facebook and other social media companies are treated remains to be seen. In the meantime, if you have suffered emotional harm as a result of working as a content moderator, consult with an employment lawyer to learn about your options.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.