A former content moderator at Facebook has filed a class action lawsuit against the social media giant, saying that the company did not protect its employees from the mental trauma caused by the graphic images that they see online every day.
The case of Scola v Facebook Inc and Pro Unlimited Inc was filed in state superior court in San Mateo County, California on Sept. 12.
Selena Scola said that she suffered from psychological trauma and PTSD as a result of constant exposure to what she described as highly toxic and extremely disturbing images that she is required to view as part of her job.
Scola said that she was employed by the contracting firm Pro Unlimited to work as content moderator for Facebook. She worked at Facebook's offices in Menlo Park and Mountain View for nine months starting June 2017.
Scola claimed that she was formally diagnosed with PTSD at an unspecified time, and contended that Facebook failed to adequately protect her from psychological trauma. She now asks that the company set up a medical monitoring fund to treat content moderators with PTSD.
The suit further claims that while Facebook has drafted work safety standards to protect content moderators from content they are tasked to remove from the platform, the company ignores these standards when it comes to its contractors.
It also alleged that Facebook required content moderators to work under conditions that are known to cause and even worsen psychological trauma.
"Facebook is ignoring its duty to provide a safe workplace and instead creating a revolving door of contractors who are irreparably traumatized by what they witnessed on the job," Korey Nelson, the lawyer for Scola, said in a statement released by Burns Charest LLP.
Experts said that repeated exposure to extreme content may also lead to "secondary trauma," a condition similar to PTSD. Viewing disturbing sexual images, for instance, may create problems in marital and sexual relationships.
"The symptoms are similar and include hypervigilance," Lisa Perez, from Minnesota State University who has studied secondary traumatic stress in individuals who view disturbing media images, told The Guardian.
Facebook's director of corporate communication Bertie Thompson said that the company is now reviewing Scola's claim. The social media company has more than 7,500 content reviewers, which include contractors and full-time employees.