01-5313800 FREEPHONE 1800 844 104 info@colemanlegalpartners.ie

At a meeting of the Irish Government’s Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, a Facebook moderator has informed members of the mental stress caused by the job, saying that “everyday was a nightmare,” and the support provided by her employer was “insufficient” to allow her to cope with the situation.

Isabella Plunkett, who still works with Facebook as a moderator, told the parliamentary committee that moderators for the platform were expected to review approximately eight hours of potentially graphic content on a daily basis. This content typically included graphic violence, exploitation, extremism, abuse and suicide.

She said: “The high priority queues – the graphic violence, the child stuff, the exploitation and the suicides, people working from home don’t get that – the burden is put on us.”

She said that the support from Facebook was not evident and that staff were encouraged not to voice their displeasure at the tasks involved in the role. She said: “It was always clear we couldn’t speak about our job, we couldn’t speak about our job to friends, family… and it’s definitely a workplace with a sense of secrecy.”

Despite developing anxiety, she said she was expected to attend the office. Due to this, she said that she has been prescribed with antidepressants. Isabelle (26) told the committee that she was unable to share her pain with those close to her as she had signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) prior to commencing work.

Law firm Foxglove and the Communication Workers Union, representing moderators, urged the committee to push for a higher level of psychological support and the end of preventing affected staff members from speaking out. Ms Plunkett was praised by members of the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, for being brave enough to share her suffering with others.

Facebook claims to provide moderators with 24-hours-a-day support. However, Ms Plunkett informed the committee that those providing the support are not qualified psychiatrists and the role is actually a ‘wellness coach’. She said: “I was seeing the wellness team but didn’t feel I got the support I needed. I can’t say I left work feeling relieved or knowing I could go home and have a good night’s sleep – that’s not possible. It would follow me home. I could just be watching TV at home and think back to one of the horrible, really graphic tickets.”
Ms Plunkett, who has been employed by Covalen one of Facebook’s largest contractors in Ireland for around two years, said: “I’ve done the job for two years and I don’t think I could do it for much longer because of the strain it does cause to your mental health. It’s not like a normal job where you can go to work and go home and forget about it – the stuff you’re seeing is really ingrained in your mind.”
A representative for Facebook said: “Everyone who reviews content for Facebook goes through an in-depth training programme on Facebook’s Community Standards and has access to psychological support to ensure their wellbeing.

“We are committed to working with our partners to provide support for our content reviewers as we recognise that reviewing certain types of content can sometimes be hard. In Ireland, 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 potentially graphic material as much as possible. This is an important issue, and we are committed to getting this right.”