YouTube settles moderators' case over graphic videos for $4.3 mln

YouTube unveils their new paid subscription service at the YouTube Space LA in Playa Del Rey, Los Angeles
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
  • YouTube accused of failing to shield workers from disturbing content
  • Moderators viewed beheadings, animal mutilation
  • Facebook agreed to pay up to $85 mln in similar case

July 13 (Reuters) - YouTube Inc will pay $4.3 million to settle a lawsuit claiming it failed to shield content moderators who routinely view violent and disturbing videos from psychological harm, according to a court filing.

Lawyers for the plaintiff in the 2020 proposed class action, identified as "Jane Doe," on Tuesday filed a proposed settlement agreement in federal court in Oakland, California, which must be approved by a federal judge. YouTube has denied wrongdoing.

The proposed nationwide class includes content moderators who were employed by YouTube or its subcontractors dating back to 2016.

YouTube, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc's Google, and its lawyers at Munger Tolles & Olson did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Nor did lawyers for Doe.

In addition to the payout, the settlement requires YouTube to provide moderators with on-site and virtual counseling services and establish peer support groups for them. It also prohibits the company from enforcing non-disclosure agreements against moderators who discuss their job with counselors.

Doe in the lawsuit said she developed anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder after viewing beheadings, acts of cannibalism and animal mutilation. She accused YouTube of negligence and violating California's Unfair Competition Law, which prohibits unlawful business practices.

Doe claimed YouTube developed safety standards to protect content moderators but never implemented them. Those measures include blurring images, displaying thumbnails rather than full-screen videos, and removing audio, according to the complaint.

Facebook Inc last year settled a similar lawsuit by content moderators in California state court for $52 million. Facebook, which denied wrongdoing, agreed to pay an additional $33 million for moderators to receive medical treatment for PTSD and other conditions caused by their work and provide coaching sessions with mental health counselors and enhanced review tools.

In March, social media service TikTok and its parent, ByteDance Inc, were hit with a proposed class action in San Francisco federal court on behalf of thousands of content moderators. TikTok has denied wrongdoing and said moderators' psychological trauma is covered by workers' compensation.

The case is Doe v. YouTube Inc, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 4:20-cv-07493.

For Doe: Steven Williams of Joseph Saveri Law Firm; Daniel Charest of Burns Charest;

For YouTube: Zachary Briers of Munger Tolles & Olson

Read more:

YouTube failed to shield content moderators from disturbing images - lawsuit

Judge OKs $85 mln settlement of Facebook moderators' PTSD claims

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at