16:09 GMT17 February 2020
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    Content moderators for YouTube are being ordered to sign a document acknowledging that performing the job can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to interviews with employees and documents obtained by The Verge. 

    Accenture, which operates a moderation site for YouTube in Austin, Texas, distributed the document to workers on December 20, which includes information regarding the number of employees with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

    “I understand the content I will be reviewing may be disturbing,” reads the document, which is titled “Acknowledgement” and was distributed to employees using DocuSign. “It is possible that reviewing such content may impact my mental health, and it could even lead to 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.”

    The statement comes at the end of a two-page acknowledgment form, and it is surrounded by a thick black border to signify its importance. An Accenture spokeswoman said in an email that the company regularly updates the information it gives to employees to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the work they do, as well as the support services available. The services include a “wellness coach,” a hotline, and the human resources department. It also instructs employees to monitor changes in their mental health and orders them to disclose negative changes to their supervisor or HR representative.

    The document reads that “no job is worth sacrificing my mental or emotional health” and that “this job is not for everyone,” indirectly suggesting that employees who experience mental health struggles as a result of their work should not continue working at Accenture. Labor attorneys told The Verge that this language could be construed to suggest that employees may be terminated for becoming disabled, which would be illegal.

    Accenture said signing the document is voluntary, however, two current employees told The Verge that they were threatened with being fired if they refused to sign. The document also contains a line which suggests that following its instructions is required and “failure to meet the requirements would amount to serious misconduct and for Accenture employees may warrant disciplinary action up to and including termination.”

    Accenture said it shares information about potentially disturbing content with all of the content moderators it employs, including those who work on its contracts with Facebook and Twitter, however, it remains unclear whether the company specifically notifies the moderators of these two social media platforms that they are at risk for PTSD. Several Facebook moderators working for Accenture competitor Cognizant in Phoenix, Arizona, and Tampa, Florida, were previously diagnosed with PTSD after viewing violent and disturbing content. 

    Facebook said in a statement that it did not review or approve forms like the one Accenture sent. A Twitter spokeswoman said that both full-time and contract Twitter employees receive information when they join the company that acknowledges they might have to view sensitive material as part of their jobs. Google, YouTube’s owner, didn’t answer questions about the prevalence of PTSD among its workforce of moderators, but instead issued a statement saying that it chooses “the companies we partner with carefully and require them to provide comprehensive resources to support moderators’ wellbeing and mental health.”

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    post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), PTSD, Google, YouTube
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