In order to get a job as a YouTube moderator they have to sign a statement acknowledging the job can give them post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. This comes from statements in interviews with YouTube employees and documents attained in the process.
According to a report by The Verge, this is a new document employees have to sign that have been distributed to workers at the Austin, Texas office on December 20th last year. This was only four days after another report was released exposing the extent and impact of the PTSD these employees have been dealing with.
This document was distributed to employees digitally on DocuSign, entitled “Acknowledgement,” and an excerpt meant that the employee knew what impact this work could have on them.
It read: “I understand the content I will be reviewing may be disturbing. It is possible that reviewing such content may impact my mental health, and it could even lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I will take full advantage of the weCare program and seek additional mental health services if needed. I will tell my supervisor/or my HR People Adviser if I believe that the work is negatively affecting my mental health.”
This comes after years of interviews and reports of PTSD suffered by many of the hundreds of thousands of moderators around the world on various platforms. The content and material that they have to view day in and day out to remove from these platforms have severe mental health consequences and tech companies have taken way too long to react and ensure that their employees are looked after properly.
Statements from the likes of Twitter and Facebook regarding the same issue have been extremely vague and tried to make clear that they wellbeing of their employees is their number one priority.
The YouTube moderators office is Austin is managed by Accenture, which said that they share the probability of seeing such disturbing content that is shared on the platform. Accenture also manages moderators that work for Twitter and Facebook and noted that the same is true for these employees.
“The wellbeing of our people is a top priority,” an Accenture spokeswoman said in an email. “We regularly update the information we give our people to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the work they do – and of the industry-leading wellness program and comprehensive support services we provide.”
The signed form also states the various support services available for people that may be suffering from mental strain. This includes a wellness coach, the human resources department and a hotline.
Disturbingly, it also seeks to pass off the responsibility of monitoring changes in the mental health of employees to them, of their own accord. They are ordered to disclose negative changes in their mental health to their HR representative. Furthermore, employees must seek outside help if necessary. The acknowledgement states: “I understand how important it is to monitor my own mental health, particularly since my psychological symptoms are primarily only apparent to me. If I believe I may need any type of healthcare services beyond those provided by Accenture, or if I am advised by a counsellor to do so, I will seek them.”
According to legal experts, this requirement could be viewed as illegal. You cannot force employees to disclose any sort of disability, but when it happens while on the job it should be viewed as the responsibility of the employer, even if it does go undiagnosed for some time.
It is still unclear how often the workers are afflicted with PTSD as many of their conditions go undiagnosed or are only diagnosed after they have left the job. According to one Accenture employee: “If I knew from the beginning how this job would impact our mental health, I would never have taken it.”