At issue in the case is not only the “debilitating physical and psychological harm” the plaintiffs say is suffered by Facebook content moderators but the company and contractor Cognizant Technology Solutions U.S. Corporation’s alleged practice of cutting the workers loose upon the expiration of their contracts. Dubbed in the suit as “the first responders of the internet,” content moderators are hired on a contract basis and laid off at the end of their term in what the lawsuit claims is an attempt by Facebook and Cognizant to shirk accountability for the workers’ mental health.
The lawsuit explains that as a result of “constant and unmitigated” exposure to “highly toxic and extremely disturbing images” that go through Facebook’s content review systems, content moderators have developed and suffered from “significant psychological trauma and/or post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Compounding matters for Facebook content moderators is what the suit describes as the failure of the company and Cognizant to implement workplace safety improvements of their own creation. The lawsuit says that while Facebook, “in an effort to cultivate its image,” has drafted employee-focused measures concerning pre-hiring psychological screening, robust counseling, working in pairs rather than alone, reducing emphasis on efficiency and productivity and providing additional wellness breaks, the company and Cognizant “ignore the very workplace standards they helped create.”
“Instead, the multibillion-dollar corporations affirmatively require their content moderators to work under conditions known to cause and exacerbate psychological trauma,” the lawsuit out of Florida alleges.
The plaintiffs allege Facebook and Cognizant’s requirement for content moderators to work under conditions that cause debilitating physical and psychological harm—and then laying the workers off at the end of their contracts—is a violation of Florida and Arizona laws. The plaintiffs assert in the case that without the court’s intervention, Facebook and Cognizant will “continue to breach the duties they owe” to content moderators.
“Plaintiffs and other content moderators, at a minimum, deserve the same protections as other first responders, which includes workers’ compensation/health coverage for the PTSD caused by the working conditions,” the complaint reads.
Through their lawsuit, which has been removed to federal court, the plaintiffs look to ensure Facebook and Cognizant put in place safe tools, systems and mandatory ongoing mental health support; establish a medical monitoring fund; and provide compensation to thousands of current and former moderators.