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Facebook paying $52 million settlement to moderators who claim they developed PTSD through work

Facebook paying $52 million settlement to moderators who claim they developed PTSD through work
Current and former moderators for Facebook will each be receiving $1,000 or more, as part of a settlement in a lawsuit that claimed having to deal with censoring content made them develop post traumatic stress disorder.

The social media giant will be paying out extra to individuals for additional mental health issues stemming from their jobs, such as depression. The settlement, first reported by The Verge, covers 11,250 moderators, while current employees will receive more counseling as part of the agreement.

“The harm that can be suffered from this work is real and severe,” a lawyer for the plaintiffs said in a statement.

While Facebook would prefer the first payment to current and former moderators to be spent on treatment, they will have full discretion how to use the funding. However, if they are diagnosed with a mental health issue stemming from their jobs, they will be entitled to anywhere from $1,500 to $6,000 in additional payments, depending on the specific diagnosis.

They can also submit a qualifying diagnosis and evidence of other injuries brought on by their jobs and be entitled to tens of thousands of additional dollars in damages.

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Former employee Selena Scola first sued the company in 2018, claiming she had developed mental health issues due to being forced to look at images of things like rape and suicide. The job of a moderator at Facebook — which can pay under $30,000 a year — is to sift through and suppress content that is deemed inappropriate. 

The social media giant hired a wave of new moderators following the 2016 presidential election as part of their promised effort to remove "misleading or harmful" posts and content from their platform.

Several companies were contracted to help with the hiring spree, but the combination of low wages and less than attractive working conditions proved problematic. A report on working conditions last year described high-stress environments where people could lose jobs for only a few errors in a week, while employees used drugs and dark humor to cope with some of the more obscene content they were forced to watch.

Facebook has agreed to use certain tools they believe will help current moderators from being exposed to content that may be disturbing. Videos being reviewed will now automatically not include audio and will also be in black and white. These changes will be in place for 80 percent of employees by the end of the year and for all employees by 2021.

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“We are grateful to the people who do this important work to make Facebook a safe environment for everyone,” Facebook said in a public statement. 

Reports earlier this year indicated that Facebook was already having moderators sign agreements that warned issues such as PTSD could be brought on by the job.

The company will also be having contracted companies screen employees to determine "emotional resiliency" as part of the ability to perform the job. 

More could still be required of the company as the judge has not approved the settlement yet, and plaintiffs now have time to request changes before it becomes an official agreement between the parties.

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