Facebook to Pay Traumatized Moderators $52 Million in Legal Settlement

A preliminary settlement looks encouraging

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg in 2019.
Anthony Quintano/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / May 13, 2020 10:12 am

Last year, an investigation by The Verge offered a glimpse into the lives of Facebook’s content moderators. For anyone concerned about unpleasant working conditions — or, really, anyone with basic human empathy — the story was frequently gut-wrenching. Content moderators frequently showed signs of PTSD, and some appeared to have been visibly affected by the conspiracy theories they were asked to monitor — all for a low salary and an uncomfortable working arrangement. The investigation got plenty of attention; earlier this year came the news that contractors hired for moderator jobs were asked to sign a form stating that they understood their work could give them PTSD.

If you think that sounds like a problematic state of affairs, you’re not alone. And it turns out Facebook is facing some consequences for this arrangement. At The Verge, Casey Newton has the news that the technology company has agreed to pay $52 million as part of a settlement. The suit began in late 2018, when Selena Scola, a former moderator, sued the company.

The preliminary settlement was filed on Friday in San Mateo Superior Court. And it covers over 10,000 moderators, who will each be receiving at least $1,000:

Each moderator will receive a minimum of $1,000 and will be eligible for additional compensation if they are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or related conditions. The settlement covers 11,250 moderators, and lawyers in the case believe that as many as half of them may be eligible for extra pay related to mental health issues associated with their time working for Facebook, including depression and addiction.

Facebook has also agreed to make changes to their content moderation system — changes which 80 percent of moderators will be able to use by the end of the year. Given the importance of mental health, it’s encouraging to see these steps being taken. Hopefully, there will be more to come.

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