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Social media giant Facebook is facing a number of legal actions around the world from those employed, through third party groups, to moderate the content that is posted to its platform

Content moderator providers including hired by service providers including CPL Resources and Accenture are being sued, along with Facebook, in relation to damages and personal injuries suffered including PTSD, depression and anxiety due to the viewing disturbing content.

One Irish employee, Sean Burke, has spoken out on the trauma his experienced in the role. He said: “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”. He went on to say that had also viewed shocking material including child sexual abuse and bestiality.

Moderators like Sean are seeking compensation for psychological injuries which, they say, are a result of viewing the distressing content during their employment with CPL Resources. Diane Treanor, a solicitor who is working on claims like this, is based with Coleman Legal Partners in Dublin.

She said: “The Personal Injuries Assessment Board has commenced authorising the issuing of High Court proceedings against 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 permit for the claim to be pursued through the courts.”

In addition to the suffering and psychological side effects, the daily targets and monitoring added to the stress experienced. One employee said: “There are grades of decision making, and if you get it wrong by just a little bit it still counts as a mistake, and that counts against your quality score, and you might be fired.”

In response to these claims, a Facebook spokesperson said: “We recognize this review work can be difficult, and we work closely with our partners to ensure that the people who do this work are supported. We require everyone who reviews content for Facebook go through an in-depth, multi-week training program on our Community Standards and have access to extensive psychological support to ensure their wellbeing. This includes 24/7, on-site support with trained practitioners, an on-call service, and access to private healthcare from the first day of employment. We are also employing technical solutions to limit their exposure to graphic material as much as possible. This is an important issue, and we are committed to getting this right.”

Coincidentally, Facebook and its service providers have started to request that new and existing employees complete an acknowledgement form to confirm that they are aware that the demands of the role could lead to PTSD. Moderators are asked to share “any negative mental health fluctuations to management”.

The wording of the document also says: “I understand the content I will be reviewing may be disturbing. It is possible that reviewing such content may negatively influence my mental health, and it could even lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I will take full advantage of the WeCare program and seek additional mental health services if needed. I will tell my supervisor/or my HR People Adviser if I believe that the work is negatively affecting my mental health. I understand how important it is to monitor my own mental health, particularly since my psychological symptoms are primarily only apparent to me.” It continues saying, “If I believe I may need any type of healthcare services beyond those provided by Accenture, or if I am advised by a counsellor to do so, I will seek them.” “Strict adherence to all the requirements in this document is mandatory, and Failure to meet the requirements would amount to serious misconduct and for Accenture, employees may warrant disciplinary action up to and including termination”.

Anyone who is working, or has worked, in a content moderation position where they suffered a psychological injury  or great distress due to the working conditions or daily targets should speak to an experienced  solicitor as soon as possible in lrelation to joining a legal action.