TikTok and its Chinese parent company Bytedance are being sued in a California federal court by a former content moderator who claims that TikTok failed to protect her mental health after she was constantly exposed to traumatising video content.
Candie Frazer has stated that she was required to review videos containing “extreme and graphic violence” for up to 12 hours per day. She claims that this psychologically traumatised her, and that she now suffers from depression, anxiety and PTSD.
TikTok is a popular online video-sharing platform with 1 billion monthly users. It hires content moderator to screen out videos and accounts that violate its rules. Ms Frazier, who was employed by Telus International, a third-party contractor, alleges that the content she had to watch included videos of genocide, mass shootings, cannibalism, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, and the mutilation of animals. Her lawsuit claims that TikTok, despite not being her direct employer, “controlled the means and manner in which content moderation occurred”.
Ms Frazier claims that the volume of content she was required to review was such that she had to watch up to 10 videos at once. She describes content moderator’s shifts as being 12 hours in duration, with a 15-minute break after the first four hours, a 15-minute break every two hours thereafter, and a single one-hour break for lunch. She alleges that TikTok violated its legal obligation to provide a safe working environment as well as failing to adhere to industry standards intended to mitigate the impact of content moderation.
TikTok told the BBC when asked for comment on the case that it strove to “promote a caring working environment”. It said that its safety team engages with third-party firms regarding moderation and that it has a number of wellness services in place to support moderators. It claimed that its measures for the protection of moderators follow industry best practices.
Telus International, which is not a defendant in Ms Frazier’s case, has disputed her allegations, saying that its mental-health programmes were robust and claiming to the Washington Post that Ms Frazier had failed to make use of internal channels available to employees for the raising of concerns.
In 2020, Facebook, another social-media giant, agreed to pay $52 million compensation to content moderators who were suffering from PTSD on account of their job.