Candie Frazier, a Las Vegas-based contractor for TikTok parent company ByteDance, alleges that she and other content moderators often spend 12-hour days reviewing disturbing content. She claims that TikTok and ByteDance fail to provide adequate protections and psychological support for content moderators, according to the complaint.
“Plaintiff Frazier views videos of the genocide in Myanmar, mass shootings, children being raped, and animals being mutilated,” the complaint states. “As a result of constant and unmitigated exposure to highly toxic and extremely disturbing images at the workplace, Ms. Frazier has developed and suffers from significant psychological trauma including anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder.”
A TikTok spokesperson said the company does not comment on ongoing litigation.
“We strive to promote a caring working environment for our employees and contractors,” the spokesperson said. “Our Safety team partners with third party firms on the critical work of helping to protect the TikTok platform and community, and we continue to expand on a range of wellness services so that moderators feel supported mentally and emotionally.”
Frazier is not a TikTok or ByteDance employee; rather, she works for a Canadian company called Telus International, which contracts out content moderation workers to TikTok and other social media platforms. But Frazier alleges in the suit that her work is dictated and supervised by TikTok and ByteDance. A spokesperson for Telus, which is not named as a party in the lawsuit, said that Frazier had never previously raised concerns about her work and “her allegations are entirely inconsistent with our policies and practices.”
“We have a robust resiliency and mental health program in place to support all our team members, as well as a comprehensive benefits program for access to personal health and well-being services,” the Telus spokesperson said. “Our team members can elevate questions and concerns about any aspect of their job through several internal channels, all of which the company takes very seriously.”
The complaint alleges that problematic content is only reviewed by moderators after it is uploaded to the platform if a user reports it. Because of the volume of content they are tasked with, moderators have only 25 seconds to review each video and view “three to ten videos at the same time,” it states. (TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding these allegations.)
“These videos include animal cruelty, torture, suicides, child abuse, murder, beheadings, and other graphic content,” according to the complaint. “The videos are each sent to two content moderators, who review the videos and determine if the video should remain on the platform, be removed from the platform, or have its audio muted.”
With the lawsuit, Frazier seeks to have TikTok pay damages (in an amount that would be determined later) to herself and other content moderators, and to develop a “medical monitoring fund” to pay for screening, diagnosis and treatment of psychological issues for such workers, according to the complaint.