Mental health of online moderators

An ODT article today doesn’t seem to be online, but it refers to this: We need to talk about the mental health of content moderators

Selena Scola worked as a public content contractor, or content moderator, for Facebook in its Silicon Valley offices. She left the company in March after less than a year.

In documents filed last week in California, Scola alleges unsafe work practices led her to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from witnessing “thousands of acts of extreme and graphic violence”.

Facebook acknowledged the work of moderation is not easy in a blog post published in July. In the same post, Facebook’s Vice President of Operations Ellen Silver outlined some of the ways the company supports their moderators:

All content reviewers — whether full-time employees, contractors, or those employed by partner companies — have access to mental health resources, including trained professionals onsite for both individual and group counselling.

But Scola claims Facebook fails to practice what it preaches. Previous reports about its workplace conditions also suggest the support they provide to moderators isn’t enough.

How moderating can affect your mental health

Facebook moderators sift through hundreds of examples of distressing content during each eight hour shift.

They assess posts including, but not limited to, depictions of violent death – including suicide and murder – self-harm, assault, violence against animals, hate speech and sexualised violence.

Studies in areas such as child protectionjournalism and law enforcement show repeated exposure to these types of content has serious consequences. That includes the development of PTSD. Workers also experience higher rates of burnout, relationship breakdown and, in some instances, suicide.

This is a modern problem that an increasing number of people are exposed to. The Internet has made a huge amount of information readily available to most of the world, but unfortunately a lot of material reflects the worst of the world, and the worst of human nature.

We also need to address the ongoing issue of precarity in an industry that asks people to put their mental health at risk on a daily basis. This requires good industry governance and representation. To this end, Australian Community Managers have recently partnered with the MEAA to push for better conditions for everyone in the industry, including moderators.

As for Facebook, Scola’s suit is a class action. If it’s successful, Facebook could find itself compensating hundreds of moderators employed in California over the past three years. It could also set an industry-wide precedent, opening the door to complaints from thousands of moderators employed across a range of tech and media industries.

Rapidly changing use of technology means that solutions to problems introduced by the technology will struggle to keep up.

Note that I am one online moderator who has no concerns about the exposure I get and have to deal with. The problems here are very minor in comparison to some parts of the Internet, and I am not reliant on this for earning a living so it is choice rather than necessity that I continue to the relatively trivial moderation concerns here.



  1. robertguyton

     /  October 8, 2018

    You’re a moderate kinda guy, Pete.

  2. Gezza

     /  October 8, 2018

    I’ve seen some horrific stuff on the internet that after years of deliberately avoiding I made myself watch to see how it could inspire people to do it. I can certainly understand how having to look at masses of it could wreck someone emotionally.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  October 8, 2018

      The people of the past who had to make use of pencils, paint and other such things couldn’t have dreamed of the wonders of technology available to the modern pervert and sex maniac.. The camera was greeted with delight, of course, and so was film. Among the first ever fims were porn. The Victorian Age was the golden age of kiddie porn.

      All that changes is the technology, not human nature.

      • robertguyton

         /  October 8, 2018

        Some of those early cave drawings were pretty dodgy, imo.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  October 8, 2018

          Your best comment for a long time, Robert!

          • robertguyton

             /  October 8, 2018

            I’ve been ill.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  October 8, 2018

              So was some Greek and Roman art. Look at Pompeii.

              Anyone who gives a child the original version of Gulliver’s Travels (which was never intended for children) had better be prepared for a surprise when they read some parts of it; mainly Brobdingnag and the Yahoos….

              One of Swift’s other texts is so revolting that I was not alone in feeling literally nauseated when we read it at Vic. It’s so bad that a friend and I have both taken it out of our collected Swifts in case we accidentally opened it at that place. He is a PhD in Eng Lit and I am an MA Hons, and we have both read extensively and are not surprised by much, but that was beyond belief.

  3. NOEL

     /  October 8, 2018

    Goal posts have moved over the years but is she covered?

  4. Blazer

     /  October 8, 2018

    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder….surely some drug company has come up with a panacea for this.
    Sounds like another winner like S.A.D -Social Anxiety Disorder’…..ever had sweaty palms,felt anxious or afraid….you need XYZ…see your doctor first…and …

  5. NOEL

     /  October 8, 2018

    In the military it used to the called Gross Stress Disorder until just before the Korean War.
    Was written out of the protocols after WWII on the assumption there would be no wars.
    There is not panacea.
    Oh I forgot its all in the mind.

    “A SOLDIER WITH PTSD fell in a HOLE and couldn’t get out. A Senior NCO went by and the Soldier with PTSD called out for help. The Senior NCO yelled at him and told him to suck it up dig deep & drive on, then threw him a shovel.

    But the Soldier with PTSD could not suck it up and drive on so he dug the hole deeper. A Senior Officer went by and the Soldier with PTSD called out for help. The Senior Officer told him to use the tools your Senior NCO has given you then threw him a bucket. But the Soldier with PTSD was using the tools his Senior NCO gave him so he dug the hole deeper and filled the bucket. A psychiatrist walked by. The Soldier with PTSD said, “Help! I can’t get out!” The psychiatrist gave him some drugs and said, “Take this. It will relieve the pain.” The Soldier with PTSD said thanks, but when the pills ran out, he was still in the hole. A well-known psychologist rode by and heard the Soldier with PTSD cries for help. He stopped and asked, ” How did you get there? Were you born there? Did your parents put you there? Tell me about yourself, it will alleviate your sense of loneliness.”

    So the Soldier with PTSD talked with him for an hour, then the psychologist had to leave, but he said he’d be back next week. The Soldier with PTSD thanked him, but he was still in the hole. A priest came by. The Soldier with PTSD called for help. The priest gave him a Bible and said, “I’ll say a prayer for you.” He got down on his knees and prayed for the Soldier with PTSD, then he left. The Soldier with PTSD was very grateful, he read the Bible, but he was still stuck in the hole. A recovering Soldier with PTSD happened to be passing by. The Soldier with PTSD cried out, “Hey, help me.

    I’m stuck in this hole!” Right away the recovering Soldier with PTSD jumped down in the hole with him. The Soldier with PTSD said, “What are you doing? Now we’re both stuck here!!” But the recovering Soldier with PTSD said, “Calm down. It’s okay. I’ve been here before. I know how to get out.”

    Author unknown.

  6. Kitty Catkin

     /  October 8, 2018

    I am still haunted by the memory of the child porn film that we saw on a documentary once. The programme didn’t show the actual deed. It didn’t need to. The poor little victim was about 10 or 11. She was a plain little girl wearing ordinary clothes. We saw some man undressing the poor child who lay there like a rag doll, letting it happen….then she put her arm over her eyes as an apology for a man was looming over her, about to rape her. The film stopped there. The documentary did, the real thing didn’t.

    It was about 20 years ago, but I still weep at the memory of her lying there, obviously knowing what was going to happen, waiting for it to be over.

    I cannot understand how anyone could do that to her or how anyone could get off on looking at it.

  7. lurcher1948

     /  October 8, 2018

    For god sake PG dont worry about YOUR mental health,what about mine, Think of a post gets the material,POST and having your DAMN post”subject to moderation”for hours and hours grow a pair PG im not that bad…SIGH