The contractors charged with keeping YouTube clean from the vilest forms of content that surface on the platform are reportedly being coerced to sign agreements acknowledging that the job could have a severe impact on their mental health, seemingly making any job-related fallout the responsibility of those workers rather than the responsibility of Google or YouTube.
The Verge reported Thursday that employees working for the company Accenture, which handles content moderation for YouTube, has “ordered” reviewers for YouTube to sign an agreement that some content they see on the job “may impact my mental health, and it could even lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” according to a copy of the document obtained by the site.
The agreement containing the language about the potential for PTSD was reportedly distributed to employees just days after a disturbing December report from The Verge about the often severe emotional and mental toll of viewing a hell feed of horrific videos all day, every day. In a statement by email, a spokesperson for the company told Gizmodo that it has always asked new hires “to review and sign these types of documents” and seemed to insinuate that the agreement was simply redistributed for reasons that are unclear.
“Although targeted at new joiners, the document was also re-issued to existing personnel, but there are no consequences for not signing the updated document,” the spokesperson said. The company did not respond to further inquiry about whether the document evidently distributed to employees before the Verge’s December report contained the same language.
In addition to the acknowledgment of potential PTSD as a result of performing the job, the Verge reported the document further states that the contractor must “take full advantage of the weCare program and seek additional mental health services if needed,” requiring them to agree to “tell my supervisor/or my HR People Adviser if I believe that the work is negatively affecting my mental health.” The site further reported the document as listing a hotline, human resources, and a non-physician “wellness coach” as resources available to content moderators.
The Accenture spokesperson told Gizmodo that in addressing the mental health needs of employees who may be affected by the job, “we ask that they let us know if they need any sort of support or accommodations, and respond accordingly.”
The Verge cited Accenture as claiming that signing the document was voluntary. However, it cited two workers as saying they were forced to sign the forms or face termination. A spokesperson for Accenture declined to answer on record whether employees have been threatened with termination for refusing to sign and would not say if employees are notified that signing the document is optional. The spokesperson would say that no one has been fired for refusing to sign.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the report. However, the company told the Verge that the contractors “do vital and necessary work to keep digital platforms safer for everyone. We choose the companies we partner with carefully, and require them to provide comprehensive resources to support moderators’ wellbeing and mental health.”
Apparently, it doesn’t choose carefully enough.