Microsoft workers on the “online safety team” were forced to view photos and videos of “indescribable sexual assaults”, “horrible brutality”, murder and child abuse, resulting in severe post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a lawsuit.
The complaint, filed on behalf of two employees and their families, outlined the “inhumane and disgusting content” the moderators viewed on a regular basis and alleged that the psychological impact has been so extreme that the men are “triggered” by simply seeing children and can no longer use computers without breaking down.
The lawsuit, which accused Microsoft of “negligent infliction of emotional distress”, provides a window into the often secretive world of online moderation and sheds light on the intense suffering of tech workers responsible for detecting and reporting digital content “designed to entertain the most twisted and sick minded people in the world”, informs The Guardian.
If the suit prevails, it could have ramifications for corporations across the industry, and Ben Wells, one of the attorneys who filed the suit in Washington state, said he hopes the case inspires others to speak out about poor working conditions.
A Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement that the company “disagrees” with the claims in the suit and “takes seriously its responsibility to remove and report imagery of child sexual exploitation and abuse being shared on its services, as well as the health and resiliency of the employees who do this important work”.