One of the former moderators of TikTok’s content has filed a lawsuit against the app’s parent firm, ByteDance, claiming that it does not provide appropriate protections for moderators’ mental health from the near-constant barrage of terrible material.
Claims by Candie Frazier, a former employee of a third-party contracting agency called Telus International, that she worked 12 hours a day as a TikTok moderator have been filed in the Central District Court of California. “Thousands of acts of intense and graphic brutality,” including mass shootings, child rape, animal mutilation, cannibalism, gang murder, and genocide, were witnessed by Frazier throughout that period.
She and her colleagues had to watch between three and ten videos at once, with new videos loading every 25 seconds, in order to keep up with TikTok’s massive volume of content each day. In the first four hours of their shift, moderators are only permitted to take one 15-minute break, and then further 15-minute breaks every two hours after that. The lawsuit claims that ByteDance “heavily penalize any time taken away from watching explicit movies.”
An industry-recognized standard for content moderation was not met by TikTok and its partners, according to the lawsuit. Technical precautions, such as blurring or lowering the resolution of videos under inspection, are also included in these measures.
Frazier claims that she has had “serious psychological stress, including sadness and symptoms consistent with anxiety and PTSD,” as a result of her work. It’s claimed in the lawsuit that Frazier has “problems sleeping and has awful nightmares when she does sleep. To get to sleep, she often has to replay videos she’s seen in her head. She suffers from frequent and devastating panic attacks.”
Reports of content moderators working for other big digital corporations like Facebook, YouTube, and Google are in line with Frazier’s court evidence. Some of the world’s largest corporations have become increasingly aware of the poor working circumstances faced by these moderators – a labor force that is critical to their profitability. In spite of the increased attention, however, working circumstances for moderators remain extremely difficult.
Joseph Saveri Law Firm, based in California, had already brought a similar complaint against Facebook moderators in 2018. Facebook agreed to pay $52 million to its content moderators in this instance. This story will be updated if and when we hear back from ByteDance.