Following a hearing in San Mateo Superior Court, California, last Friday is was revealed that Facebook have agreed to a preliminary settlement of $52 million to compensate content moderators for the psychological suffering they endured while working on behalf of the social media platform.
This development heralds a landmark move for the rights of content moderators and confirms the great burden that is placed on them as a result of the tasks the jobs involves. As part of the preliminary settlement, Facebook have confirmed that they are putting in place a process to make available extra counselling services for moderators. The content moderators included in this class were employed since 2015 in locations across the United States including California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida.
Before the final approval can be given for the settlement there will be a period of time allowed for class members to consider if the terms of the settlement are acceptable to them. If there are no changes then it is expected that a judge will be able to give final approval before the end of the 2020.
This preliminary settlement is particularly relevant for Facebook content moderators based in Ireland as there is currently a compensation action is submitted to the High Court by a group of content moderators, some of those who were employed by vendor CPL solutions. It was filed as a result of the moderators suffering from ‘psychological trauma” linked unacceptable work conditions and insufficient training to allow them manage with the stressful manner of the duties and the often violent and graphic nature of the material they were expecting to review.
The terms of the proposed settlement state in the US state that every moderator will receive at least $1,000. However, a content moderator can seek additional compensation if they are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or related conditions. Anyone who is diagnosed with a mental health condition cans claim up to $1,500 more, and people who receive multiple concurrent diagnoses — PTSD and depression, for instance — could be eligible for compensation up to $6,000. Along with the aforementioned compensation, which is intended to be used for medical treatment , moderators with a qualifying diagnosis will be eligible to submit evidence of other injuries they sustained for their time at Facebook and could receive up to $50,000 in damages
In total the preliminary settlement includes 11,250 moderators. Legal representatives in the class action believe that as many as half of them may be eligible for extra pay related to mental health issues associated with their time working for Facebook, including depression and addiction.
The precise amount of the overall compensation paid out to each individual will depend on the number of the members of the class action that apply for benefits. Hence is may be much smaller and it could shrink significantly if the majority of the class is found to be eligible for benefits.
Coleman Legal Partners are representing a number of the Irish-based Facebook Content Moderators. Partner at the firm Dave Coleman said: “The recent developments in some States of the United States are to be welcomed. The acknowledgements from Facebook that seem to be contained in the proposed Settlement are an important first step taken by Facebook in this case. We hope to see clarity soon with regard to the issue of outsourced workers who carried out commercial content Moderation for Facebook. In the meantime the Irish cases, on behalf of European Commercial Content Moderators continue to be progressed before the Irish Courts and further comment at this time would be inappropriate.”
Facebook issued a statement in relation to the announcement of the preliminary settlement which said: “We are grateful to the people who do this important work to make Facebook a safe environment for everyone. We’re committed to providing them additional support through this settlement and in the future.”