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Facebook Content Moderators and Mental Health in the Workplace

Published by and on June 25, 2019

Facebook rolls out new standards to improve working conditions and mental health for its content moderators.

Mental health issues have a significant impact on businesses. In February 25, 2019, The Verge published an exposé on the working conditions of Facebook content moderators. The widely circulated article detailed the psychological and emotional toll taken on these independent contractors who are responsible for enforcing the social medial platform’s content standards. Content moderators review content that has been flagged as violating Facebook’s community standards, such as prohibitions on posting violence, pornography, and hate speech.

Some former Facebook content moderators filed a lawsuit against the company in California Superior Court, San Mateo County, for not doing enough for their contractors who are required to watch extremely graphic and disturbing content every day and allege PTSD as a result. The suit has since become a class action in which the content moderators allege negligent exercise of control, negligent provision of unsafe equipment, and unfair competition under California common law. Facebook denies the allegations. Nevertheless, in response to the public backlash, Facebook recently rolled out a pay increase and is offering additional benefits to these contractors.

Importantly, Facebook recently announced that the company will be instituting resiliency training and ensuring each site has access to on-site counseling support. Facebook added functions on its review platform that allow its reviewers to customize how they view certain content (e.g. blur graphic images before reviewing them) and now require that all contractor vendors provide on-site counseling during all hours of operations. Facebook will also be conducting surveys to better understand the needs of their content moderators.

Welter Insight

While Facebook’s content moderators are an extreme case of mental health needs in the workplace due to the nature of the position, the situation sheds a broader light on mental health support in the workplace. Businesses can have a positive impact on their workforce by providing mental health support services. Some popular concepts that are gaining traction to improve workplace mental health include:

  • Offering flexible work options to increase work-life balance
  • Creating policies to prevent bullying, harassment, and discrimination in the workplace
  • Providing employer assistance programs and anonymous online screening programs for depression and anxiety
  • Monitoring employee engagement through the use of company surveys
  • Educating employees about mental health resources

Employers considering implementing these types of programs should discuss these programs with employment counsel to develop comprehensive workplace policies and practices and ensure compliance with federal, state, and local laws.

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