Two former Microsoft employees are in the process of suing the company for allegedly failing to protect them from the adverse psychological effects of the disturbing material they had to view as part of their everyday work.
The action has been taken by Henry Soto and Greg Blauert who worked for Microsoft’s ‘Online Safety Team,’ the section responsible for informing the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children of illegal and abusive content. Tech companies are legally obliged under US law to perform this role.
The lawsuit alleges that the two employees were forced to view photos and videos of “horrible brutality” , “indescribable sexual assaults” and showing content of murder and child abuse. According to the law suit this has resulted in both litigants being affected with severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
For its part, Microsoft, has said in a statement that it “takes seriously its responsibility to remove and report imagery of child sexual exploitation and abuse being shared on its services, as well as the health and resiliency of the employees who do this important work.”
The suit which was filed in December 2016, claims that the former employees were not warned sufficiently of the dangers or potential mental impact of their role.
Mr Soto was praised in an employee review for having “courage”. He has said however that the work resulted in him suffering “panic attacks, disassociation, depression, visual hallucinations” and had a severe impact on the relationship with his own young son.
Microsoft has responded to the suit by saying that it provided psychological support on a monthly basis and uses technology to alleviate the ’realism of the imagery,’ reassigns employees who no longer want to do this work, and limits the amount of time the employees spend on the moderation.
In filed court documents the two men’s legal team have written:
“Many people simply cannot imagine what Mr Soto had to view on a daily basis as most people do not understand how horrible and inhumane the worst people in the world can be.” Blauert was also allegedly required to “review thousands of images of child pornography, adult pornography and bestiality that graphically depicted the violence and depravity of the perpetrators.”