A report recently published by The Verge has revealed that content moderators for online video platform YouTube are being directed to complete an acknowledgement which states they are aware of the possible post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) side effects associated with the daily duties of the position.
The online publication has come into possession of interviews with employees and documents which confirm this is the case. It involves the employment services provider Accenture and, more specifically, its offices based in Austin, Texas that provided moderation for YouTube. At these offices, the acknowledgement form was distributed among employees at the end of December, not long after an exposé was published by The Verge covering the high occurrence of PTSD among workers at the facility.
In the material which was distributed for completion, the PTSD statement comes at the end of the two-page acknowledgment form, highlighted using a thick black border to signify its importance. The document, which is titled “Acknowledgement”, included the wording: “I understand the content I will be reviewing may be disturbing. It is possible that reviewing such content may impact 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.”
Responding to the reports in The Verge an Accenture spokeswoman said: “The wellbeing of our people is a top priority. We regularly update the information we give our people to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the work they do — and of the industry-leading wellness program and comprehensive support services we provide.”
YouTube responded to these developments by reiterating that the acknowledgment was not sent at the direction of its parent company Google. Rather, this is a step taken solely by Accenture. A YouTube Spokesperson said: “Moderators do vital and necessary work to keep digital platforms safer for everyone. We choose the companies we partner with carefully and require them to provide comprehensive resources to support moderators’ wellbeing and mental health.”
The form itself goes into some detail regarding the provisions Accenture is making to assist content moderators in dealing with the stress of the role and possible PTSD. These measures included an available “wellness coach,” a hotline, and the human resources department. However it specifically states that the the wellness coach is not a medical doctor and cannot diagnose or treat mental health disorders.
An Accenture representative also pointed to the fact that the group has consistently requested that new employees complete these kinds of documents. Along with being given to new employees this latest form has also been distributed to existing employees to complete. However, despite Accenture stating that there are no repercussions for anyone who chooses not to sign the acknowledgement, two current employees told The Verge that they were threatened with being fired if they refused to sign.
The document itself also says that following its instructions is required: “Strict adherence to all the requirements in this document is mandatory,” it reads. “Failure to meet the requirements would amount to serious misconduct and for Accenture employees may warrant disciplinary action up to and including termination.”
This comes at a time that the number of legal actions and class actions taken by content moderators of social media and video platforms is continuing to grow and, it appears, compensation settlements are about to be agreed to (read more here: Reports that Settlement is Close in US Facebook Content Moderator Legal Action).
If you are working for a social media platform and are having difficulty with the stress brought on to you by the expectations of the role then you should get in touch with a legal firm, such as Coleman Legal Partners, to speak with an expert about the options available to you.