A Facebook moderator, who is based is Dublin, is readying himself for a legal battle with Facebook in relation to the trauma he experienced due the material he had to view, and daily targets he had to meet, while working as a content moderator for the platform. The man in question, Sean Burke, has recently spoken about what he went through.
A native of New Jersey, Sean Burke had previously been employed with other large technology mulitinations including Cisco and SAP before he became a Content Moderator for Facebook through the CPL Employment agency in Dublin. He said he was completely unprepared for the video content that he had to view: “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. Day two was the first time for me seeing bestiality on video — and it all escalated from there.”
Sean is just one of many content moderators, employed by CPL, that are initiating a legal battle against the employment agency and Facebook through the Irish High Court. They are doing so as, they claim, as they suffered “psychological trauma” as a result of unacceptable work conditions and inadequate training to help the deal with the stress nature fo the role and the disturbing content they were expected to view.
Burke said: “I’ve had to go on antidepressants because of working on the job. At times I was solving my problems with alcohol to get to sleep because at least I wasn’t dreaming when I slept after having a few drinks on me.”
Diane Treanor, the Dublin-based lawyer leading Sean’s lawsuit, was spoke to VICE News in relation to the legal action: “Obviously, there are thousands of moderators employed throughout Europe. We have been liaising with moderators in Barcelona and Berlin and have had inquiries from Sweden,”
She added that a lot of content moderator are fearful, due to non-disclosure agreements that the signed, of speaking out or joining the legal campaign. Due to this the lawsuit is seeking, along with compensation for the trauma suffered, to highlight the lack of regard that Facebook seems to have when it appoints individuals to a content moderator position. She said: “Facebook needs to address the failure to protect its employees and provide a safe place and system of work. We are seeking to ensure future moderators will have access to counselors and healthcare professionals while working for Facebook and after they leave the employment.”
Treanor, of Coleman Legal Partners, said she will try and portray to the the High Court how a systemic failure by Facebook and CPL to properly ascertain how the volume of graphic images their employees were exposed lead to a serious deterioration in their mental health.
It is expected that claims like are going to explode in the coming months as more and more moderators join the lawsuits Currently, Burke is one of about 15,000 low-paid moderators who work for third-party agencies that Facebook used in order to police the content. They complete work that artificial intelligence cannot be relied on for.
These low-paid moderators are now fighting back against the network that relies on them so much and want them (Facebook) to make up for the suffering that they have experienced and ensure that they work to put an end to it going forward.