Big Tech Companies Ask Moderators to Sign PTSD consent forms -- Do They Try to Avoid Lawsuits?

source: Pixabay

Content moderators working for Google, YouTube, and Facebook have reportedly been required to sign forms acknowledging that performing the job could cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to interviews with employees and documents obtained by The Verge and The Financial Times.

In December last year, The Verge published an investigation into the increased number of social media content moderators who have PTSD. 

The Verge reporters talked to anonymous employees at the Google's largest content moderation department in the United States, located in Austin, Texas. Hundreds of moderators work there 24/7 to ensure there is no violent/inappropriate content on YouTube. 

They are supposed to spend five hours per shift, watching gruesome videos featuring violent extremism, hate speech, adult content, copyright infringements, and more.

 After working this job for as little as six months, most of the workers started experiencing anxiety, depression, and other severe mental health consequences.

Four days after the report was published,  Accenture, the firm which runs the Google-owned moderation facility in Austin, reportedly distributed the PTSD acknowledgment form to employees via DocuSign.

According to the two-page document, the employees agreed that the content they are reviewing could hurt their mental health and lead to PTSD. The workers had to confirm they would inform their supervisor if this happens and would take advantage of the in-house weCare program.

Some of the YouTube content moderators who were reluctant to sign the paper were reportedly told they could be dismissed from work, Business Insider noted. 

According to people familiar with the matter, it is still not clear whether Accenture is shifting the responsibility of mental health care to the employees. In other words, Accenture could try to absolve the firm from legal blame as more content moderators bring their employers to court, alleging the jobs led to PTSD symptoms.

In early January, Accenture distributed the same document across content moderators working at the three Facebook content moderations facilities in Europe - in Warsaw, Lisbon, and Dublin, the Financial Times reported on Friday.

In an official statement, Facebook said it never review or approve the forms Accenture sent, adding that it was unaware that content moderators were forced to sign it. However, Facebook admitted that it required all its partners to offer extensive psychological support to moderators worldwide.

YouTube spokesperson said in an e-mail that the form was an internal Accenture document. Highlighting the hard work the moderators do for YouTube, the spokesperson also noted that the company requires its partners to provide comprehensive resources to support moderators' mental health.

Accenture commented that all new employees are asked to review and sign these types of documents, and inform the company if they need additional help to cope with the work-related stress.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the statement that Big Tech are trying to avoid lawsuits by making content moderators sign PTSD acknowledgment forms?