In what could prove to be a watershed ruling, Facebook has been instructed to pay $52 million to former and current moderators who suffered PTSD as a result of working for the social media platform.

This, as a preliminary settlement filed at the San Mateo Superior Court in California last week Friday explains, will serve as compensation for any mental health issues that developed while moderating content posted to Facebook. The firm says that it will pay the aforementioned amount, as well as provide counselling for those who need it.

According to the The Verge, which also detailed this story last year with information from moderators, each moderator is expected to receive a minimum of $1000 (~R18 488), with 11 250 people involved with this settlement.

That covers the moderators that Facebook utilises in California, Arizona, Texas and Florida from 2015 onward, so it remains to be seen what will happen for those working in other parts of the globe and equally susceptible to mental health issues resulting from content moderating.

“We are so pleased that Facebook worked with us to create an unprecedented program to help people performing work that was unimaginable even a few years ago,” noted Steve Williams, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs.

“The harm that can be suffered from this work is real and severe,” he added.

With other big platforms like YouTube also coming under fire for the way it handles content moderators, hopefully this ruling will set a precedent for how this kind of employment is handled moving forward.

Given the intensity and often explicit nature of content that moderators have to watch or inspect, this is clearly one of the more mentally straining professions out there.

That is why is was pleasing to see that Facebook will also have to bring about some administrative changes as part of the settlement.

These include:

  • Screening applicants for emotional resiliency as part of the recruiting and hiring process
  • Posting information about psychological support at each moderator’s workstation
  • Informing moderators how to report violations of Facebook’s workplace standards by the vendors they’re working for.

“We are grateful to the people who do this important work to make Facebook a safe environment for everyone,” the firm said in a statement. “We’re committed to providing them additional support through this settlement and in the future,” it added.

Whether that is indeed the case, remains to be seen.