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TikTok Content Moderator Claims PTSD from Offensive Material, Sues App

— December 29, 2021

A TikTok content moderator claims the social company failed to provide industry-standard safeguards for employee and contractors’ psychological well-being.

A TikTok content moderator has sued the social media platform and its parent company, claiming she developed psychological trauma from her job, which requires that she look at graphic violent content and other disturbing material.

According to NBC News, plaintiff Candie Frazier—a contractor employed by Telus International—is tasked with reviewing offensive TikTok posts, which are flagged by other users for manual review. Content moderators like Frazier are responsible for modifying, censoring, or deleting images and videos if they violate TikTok’s terms of use.

Frazier’s attorney, Steve Williams, told NBC News that his client views “horrific stuff nonstop.”

“Plaintiff Frazier views videos of the genocide in Myanmar, mass shootings, children being raped, and animals being mutilated,” the lawsuit states. “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.”

Frazier has since asked the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to certify her lawsuit as a class action.

TikTok open on an iPhone. Image via Max Pixel. Public domain.

In her complaint, Frazier says she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder “as a result of constant and unmitigated exposure to highly toxic and extremely disturbing images at the workplace.”

TikTok, claims Frazier, had failed to warn her that viewing violent and otherwise offensive materials “can have a significant negative mental health impact on content moderators.”

However, NBC News notes that Telus International’s current job postings for content moderators warn applicants that the posts they will have to review “may include graphic, violent, explicit, political, profane and otherwise disturbing content.”

The posting also lists “sound coping, emotional regulation, and stress-management skills” as a requirement, but it is not clear whether this detailed job description was available at the same time Frazier applied for the position.

Although Telus International is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, a company representative nonetheless said that it has 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.”

Frazier, said Telus International, “has never previously raised these concerns about her work environment and her allegations are entirely inconsistent with our policies and practices.”

Williams, though, says that his client was endangered not because of the nature of her job, but because TikTok failed to implement “workplace safety measures” that he claims are “industry-recognized standards.”

Other companies, says Williams, limit content moderators’ shifts to four hours; Frazier, meanwhile, works 12-hour shifts with two 15-minute breaks and an hour-long lunch.

Williams and Frazier also allege that TikTok ignored other industry-standard practices and recommendations, such as censoring, muting, or otherwise distorting disturbing images and videos before they are sent to content moderators.

While a TikTok spokesperson told CNN Business that the company does not comment on pending litigation, they said the social media platform seeks to ensure its employees and contractors’ mental well-being.

“We strive to promote a caring working environment for our employees and contractors,” the spokesperson said. “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.”


TikTok content moderator alleges in lawsuit that job gave her PTSD

TikTok moderator sues over ‘psychological trauma’

TikTok sued by content moderator who claims she developed PTSD from reviewing disturbing content

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