The Joseph Saveri Law Firm filed a Complaint in the San Mateo County Superior Court against YouTube on behalf of Plaintiff and a nation-wide class of content moderators. This YouTube content moderators’ safe workplace litigation, Jane Doe v. YouTube, alleges that content moderators responsible for viewing and removing offensive and disturbing videos and images posted by YouTube users are suffering from psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), and are not being protected properly by the social media company.

Every day, YouTube users upload millions of videos to its platform. Many uploads include graphic and objectionable content such as child sexual abuse, rape, torture, bestiality, beheadings, suicide, and murder. To maintain a sanitized platform, maximize profits, and cultivate its public image, YouTube relies on people like Plaintiff who work as “content moderators,” viewing and removing videos that violate the corporation’s terms of use.

Working at YouTube’s offices in California or in offices of contract employers across the country, these content moderators—including Plaintiff—witness thousands of acts of extreme and graphic violence and sexual assault. They spend hours a day ensuring that disturbing content like this never appears to YouTube’s users. As a result of unmitigated exposure to this highly toxic and extremely disturbing content, Plaintiff developed and suffers from significant psychological trauma including anxiety, depression, and symptoms associated with PTSD.

To cultivate its image, YouTube (through its parent company Google, LLC) helped draft workplace safety standards to attempt to mitigate the negative psychological effects that viewing this content has on content moderators. These safety standards include obtaining a candidate’s informed consent during the initial employment interview process; providing content moderators with robust and mandatory counseling and mental health support; altering the resolution, audio, size, and color of trauma-inducing images and videos; and training content moderators to recognize the physical and psychological symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

Although these safety standards could not eliminate the risk that content moderators would develop negative psychological disorders after viewing this content, they could have reduced the risk. However, YouTube failed to implement these standards. Instead, it requires its content moderators to work under conditions it knows causes and worsens psychological trauma. This violates California law. Without the Court’s intervention, YouTube will continue to injure content moderators and breach the duties it owes to them.

On behalf of herself and a proposed Class, Plaintiff brings this action to: (1) compensate content moderators that were exposed to objectionable content on YouTube’s platform; (2) ensure that YouTube provides them with tools, systems, and mandatory ongoing mental health support to mitigate the harm reviewing such content can cause; and (3) provide mental health screening and treatment to the thousands of current and former content moderators affected by YouTube’s unlawful practices.

YouTube content moderators’ safe workplace litigation is similar to Scola v. Facebook, a class action filed by the Firm in which Facebook’s content moderators allegedly suffered from psychological trauma and PTSD, and were not protected by workplace safety standards. That suit resulted in Facebook agreeing to workplace improvements and a settlement of $52 million in damages for the Class.

Please contact Steven Williams (swilliams@saverilawfirm.com) and Katharine Malone (kmalone@saverilawfirm.com) if you have knowledge to share regarding the situation of content moderators working for YouTube or you would like additional information. Any information you provide will be kept strictly confidential as provided by law unless and until you agree to publicly disclose the information.