The Battle Against PTSD
Over the last few years there has been a significant rise in reported cases of ‘content moderators’ being diagnosed with PTSD. As reported by (the verge), this rise has been attributed to daily exposure of violent and disturbing content as part of the job requirement. Exposure to gruesome and disturbing content like animal cruelty, beheading, bestiality, drug abuse, extreme violence, gambling, pornography, sexual assault and terrorism has taken a toll on their mental health.
What makes this job even more stressful for content moderators is that apart from reviewing such content
on a frequent basis they are also required to maintain regular targets to keep their jobs going. Without adequate support from their superiors and insufficient entitlement to services only adds to the anxiety of an already stressful job. Content moderation companies have been persuading potential employees by providing them with misleading information related to their job. “Shawn Speagle” former Facebook content moderator quoted during an interview with (The Verge) that his job description was misleading to what he was actually assigned. After their initial screening, content moderation companies have been forcing their employees to sign a lengthy non-disclosure agreement acknowledging “this job might cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)”, before they even begin their employment, said Casey Newton, Reporter (The Verge).
This contract not only prohibits employees from disclosing any work-related stress to their superiors but could also lead to harassment or even termination of their employment contract if the company deems them unfit for the job, (The Verge).
Clueless and scared, content moderators continue their jobs with neither adequate benefits nor medical allowances. Although full time-moderators working for Facebook and Google get additional benefits compared to contract-based moderators. However, a former Google content moderator “Daisy Soderberg” quoted during an interview with verge “all these benefits don’t mean anything if a person has to see such contents every day. It leaves a scar behind which nothing can heal”
With increasing distress among content moderators, Facebook has finally agreed to pay a sum of $ 52 million to all existing and former content moderators as compensation for mental suffering that they have endured during their tenure. Facebook is also working on an algorithm to automatically remove “reported content” without the involvement of content moderators to reduce the post-traumatic stress involved in this job.
Irrespective of the actions taken by multi-national corporations, there are still more than 10,000 vulnerable content moderators working tirelessly across the globe. No amount of compensation could compensate for the traumatic experience and memories, these moderators will have to carry on for the rest of their lives.
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