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TikTok Sued by Content Moderator for PTSD

A content moderator for TikTok is suing the social media platform after she says she developed psychological trauma as a result of her job, which she alleges required her to review videos featuring graphic violence, conspiracy theories and other disturbing imagery.

The complaint states, “Plaintiff Frazier views videos of the genocide in Myanmar, mass shootings, children being raped, and animals being mutilated. As a result of constant and unmitigated exposure to highly toxic and extremely disturbing images at the workplace, Ms. Frazier has developed and suffers from significant psychological trauma including anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder.”

Candie Frazier, a Las Vegas-based contractor for TikTok parent company ByteDance, alleges that she and other content moderators often spend 12-hour days reviewing disturbing content. She claims that TikTok and ByteDance fail to provide adequate protections and psychological support for content moderators, according to the complaint.

A spokesperson from TikTok said, “We strive to promote a caring working environment for our employees and contractors. Our Safety team partners with third party firms on the critical work of helping to protect the TikTok platform and community, and we continue to expand on a range of wellness services so that moderators feel supported mentally and emotionally.”

The proposed class action lawsuit was filed last week in federal court in California is likely to heighten the scrutiny of problematic content and moderation practices at TikTok. The short video-based platform had previously flown under the radar compared to larger rivals such as Facebook and YouTube, but has gained attention in recent months from critics and lawmakers after exploding in popularity, especially among young people, during the pandemic.

Frazier is not a TikTok or ByteDance employee; rather, she works for a Canadian company called Telus International, which contracts out content moderation workers to TikTok and other social media platforms. But Frazier alleges in the suit that her work is dictated and supervised by TikTok and ByteDance. A spokesperson for Telus, which is not named as a party in the lawsuit, said that Frazier had never previously raised concerns about her work and “her allegations are entirely inconsistent with our policies and practices.”

The Telus spokesperson further said, “We have a robust resiliency and mental health program in place to support all our team members, as well as a comprehensive benefits program for access to personal health and well-being services. Our team members can elevate questions and concerns about any aspect of their job through several internal channels, all of which the company takes very seriously.”

Facebook faced a similar lawsuit in 2018 from a content moderator who said she developed PTSD after being exposed to content featuring rape, suicide and violence on the job. Among the criticisms Facebook faced for its content moderation practices was that moderation contractors did not reap the same benefits as corporate employees.

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