A Former Facebook Moderator Claims Serious Injury From Explicit Content
A former Facebook content moderator employee, known in this article as Mr. A has filed a lawsuit against Facebook and outsourcing agency CPL Solutions in Ireland for causing him suffering of “serious psychological injuries” as quoted by Mr. A in the Business Post. An alias is used throughout the article to respect Mr. A’s privacy.
In September 2019, the Personal Injuries Board gave a group of content moderators the approval for pursuing further court action with Facebook. Under section 17 of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003, if a plaintiff’s injury consists of psychological
damage that would be difficult to assess by the Board, it can give permission for the claim to be pursued through the courts.
Currently, Mr. A’s court action is being undertaken by Coleman Legal.
In November 2017, Mr. A commenced his role as a content moderator in Facebook. During his working hours from 6pm to 2am, he was required to repeatedly review explicit and disturbing material which he alleges included: “videos showing the rape and/or sexual assault of children, a compilation of clips showing people dying by suicide, set to music; a collection of hundreds of photos depicting people self-harming; a video of a man being beaten to death with planks of wood; videos and images of beheadings; videos showing people being electrocuted and impaled and videos showing individuals being stabbed in the stomach.” in the Business Post.
He claims Facebook and CPL Solutions did not conduct any health checks to assess if he would be capable of coping with the impact of his work as a content moderator. In the Irish Times, Mr. A says he was required to “repeatedly view extremely violent, graphic and upsetting material, some of which involved children” in his role. In an article with Vice, Mr. A says “My first day on the job, I witnessed someone being beaten to death with a plank of wood with nails in it and repeatedly stabbed. Day two was the first time for me seeing bestiality on video — and it all escalated from there.”
Mr A alleges the details of his role were not fully disclosed to him before commencing his employment. He claims that he never expected or was informed of the intensity and the frequency of the disturbing and upsetting material that he would be reviewing (Business Post).
Mr. A claims Facebook and CPL Solutions have failed to ensure a reasonable regard for his physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as exposed him to risk, danger and injury. According to the Health, Safety and Welfare Act at Work 2005, employers have the responsibility to “provide the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health, and welfare at work of his or her employees”.
Mr. A also claims he was not given adequate training or psychological support to cope with the harsh experience of his role. He had informed Facebook’s Health Coaching Team multiple times regarding his nightmares, anxiety and other symptoms arising from his role and yet, he was not given any help for his mental and emotional strain. He adds “I’ve had to go on antidepressants because of working on the job,” in his Vice interview.
Silicon Republic’s interview with representing solicitor Diane Treanor from Coleman Legal said that Facebook needs to “address the failure” and work to protect future employees. “We are seeking to ensure future moderators will have access to counsellors and healthcare professionals while working for Facebook and after they leave the company,” Treanor added.
The case is gaining more traction across Europe as more content moderators are now reaching out to Coleman Legal from an array of cities including Barcelona, Berlin and Sweden who are interested in seeking compensation for the psychological and physical injury they have sustained during their role working as a content moderator for Facebook.
Why Content Moderators may be reluctant to reach out for help?
- Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA)
If the employee had to sign a non-disclosure agreement before commencing the role, they can be worried about the repercussion of speaking about their work. This can include worry about losing their job, fear of difficulty to find other work in the tech industry or the potential legal action that their employer can take against them.
Facing the trauma alone can cause more emotional distress, anxiety and isolation for the affected employee as they do not have an outlet to talk about the work that is troubling them, hence it can exacerbate their emotional strain and mental struggle.
- Employees were “warned”
If the content moderator employee was partially warned by the employer that they would have to review uncomfortable content, the employee may believe that the employers have already warned them and hence their arguments would be invalid. The employee may not understand that the Health, Safety and Welfare Act at Work 2005 requires the employer to provide adequate training and support to ensure well-being for the employee, regardless of whether they were warned about the nature of their jobs or not.
The employee may also categorise extreme content and uncomfortable content on the same level now. This may cause them to just accept that their employers had already informed them, even if it is not a full disclosure of how extreme the nature of the content is and how frequently the employee will review this type of content.
If you have suffered psychological trauma as a content moderator employee or ex-employee and have concerns regarding NDAs, other contracts and acceptance/settling from being partially warned, it is advisable to speak to a solicitor.
Frequently Asked Questions
If I don't have any resources to fund my case, how can I take a claim?
The team at Coleman Legal are fully supportive in every way of your case. We successfully represent many hundreds of clients, moderators and others, all of whom have been able to bring a case without the worry and stress of financing it. We can help you.
We are aware that a similar case in the US was recently settled with a positive outcome for the content moderators. If you case is successful in court, or settled out of court, you will then have to pay reasonable legal fees.
It is important to note that no solicitor’s fee may be calculated as a percentage of any award or settlement you receive. Also, if a litigant loses their case they may be liable for the other side’s legal defence costs, including medical fees or other expert reports, etc. We will advise you in advance should this become a likelihood.
My employer warned me in advance that I might have to review disturbing content, and that it might lead to PTSD. Can I still make a claim?
The Health, Safety and Welfare Act at Work 2005 requires the employer to provide adequate training and support to ensure well-being for the employee, regardless of whether they were warned about the nature of their jobs or not.
Asking you to sign a waiver does not relieve an employer of their obligations and responsibility. If you have suffered psychological trauma as a content moderator and have concerns regarding NDAs, other contracts and acceptance/settling from being partially warned, it is advisable to speak to a solicitor.
Do I have the same rights and safeguards being a third-party employee?
An employer is legally required to provide yo with a safe place of work and a safe system of work. Historically agency workers were treated in an entirely different manner to those workers who were hired directly into the workforce. Whilst the employment agency is the employer, the company is also respomsoble for breaches of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005.
Your right to being protected under Health and Safety Regulations are the responsibility of both the company company where you are doing the temporary work and the agency.
I have left my job, and didn't realise at the time that the content I reviewed had caused psychological injuries. Can I take a case against my employer now?
After you become aware of the harm you have suffered, you must make a claim for compensation within two years.
It is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible, to ensure your claim doesn’t pass this statute of limitations.
I work as a contractor, employed by an agency, not by the company whose content I was moderating. Can I still make a claim?
Whilst the employment agency is the employer, the company which controls your work and working environment is also responsible for breaches of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005.
Your rights under Health and Safety Regulations are the responsibility of both the companies, and Coleman Legal will make claims on your behalf against each of them.
How do I know if I have suffered a psychological injury?
Each case is unique and the effect of psychological injuries such as PTSD will vary with each individual. Many content moderators’ symptoms are not immediately recognised, and they may only become evident over a period of time.
It is important that psychological illness/injury is correctly diagnosed by a qualified professional. Your GP will be able to give you a preliminary diagnosis, and arrange for evaluation by a specialist to help you begin on your journey to recovery.
What obligations does my employer have regarding psychological injuries?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, recognises PTSD as a result of exposure to graphic content.
Where it is reasonably foreseeable that an employee is working under conditions that could cause mental health issues, your employer owes you a duty to take reasonable steps to address these issues.
Once a duty of care is established, if you as an employee have suffered a psychological injury as a result of your employer’s negligence, you can claim compensation for the harm suffered.
I'm still working for my employer. Does this affect my claim?
I am not based in Ireland, and my employer is not an Irish company. How can I claim?
You may take your case through the Irish Courts if you are, or were:
- an employee of, OR a contractor for, a multi-national company with headquarters in Ireland, including the European HQ of an American company, AND
- working as a content moderator in an EU country.
Will the current Covid-19 pandemic prevent me from taking my claim or cause delays to my claim?
Covid-19 has affected everybody. We are fully operational during Covid-19 crisis, and the courts are still operating. We continue to receive instructions from moderators throughout Europe. Our services are being conducted over the phone and with video calling to ensure the safety of our clients while providing minimal disruption to our services.
What About My NDA?
Many big technology companies in Ireland use non-disclosure agreements to intimidate staff and discourage them from vindicating their rights. Ireland has very strong whistleblower protections and employee rights, and enforcing these NDAs would be very difficult under Irish law, particularly as your right to access justice through the courts takes precedence over any claimed right to secrecy.
How can we help?
At Coleman Legal, we understand the negative impact that psychological trauma can have on your life, hence we are dedicated to pursuing the best possible results for our clients. Our dedicated team are highly experienced in the Content Moderator arena spearheading the first case of this nature with Chris Gray in Ireland who was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) working as a content moderator in Facebook. We are also representing a group of content moderators living in Ireland and from abroad.
If you have suffered damages and/or risks related to being a content moderator, or have any concerns that you would like us to address, please contact our team at Coleman Legal. With 24/7 client support, a compassionate litigation service, our highly experienced solicitors are ready to advise.
CONTACT OUR PERSONAL INJURY TEAM TODAY
Please contact Diane Treanor from our Personal Injury Team at Coleman Legal in confidence by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone for free on 1800-844104 to see how we can help you.
84 Talbot Street, Dublin 1
Free Phone: (1800) 844 104