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Microsoft Anti-Porn Workers Sue Over PTSD (thedailybeast.com) 305

An anonymous reader shares with us a report from The Daily Beast: When former Microsoft employees complained of the horrific pornography and murder films they had to watch for their jobs, the software giant told them to just take more smoke breaks, a new lawsuit alleges. Members of Microsoft's Online Safety Team had "God-like" status, former employees Henry Soto and Greg Blauert allege in a lawsuit filed on Dec. 30. They "could literally view any customer's communications at any time." Specifically, they were asked to screen Microsoft users' communications for child pornography and evidence of other crimes. But Big Brother didn't offer a good health care plan, the Microsoft employees allege. After years of being made to watch the "most twisted" videos on the internet, employees said they suffered severe psychological distress, while the company allegedly refused to provide a specially trained therapist or to pay for therapy. The two former employees and their families are suing for damages from what they describe as permanent psychological injuries, for which they were denied worker's compensation. "Microsoft applies industry-leading, cutting-edge technology to help detect and classify illegal images of child abuse and exploitation that are shared by users on Microsoft Services," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in an email. "Once verified by a specially trained employee, the company removes the image, reports it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and bans the users who shared the images from our services. We have put in place robust wellness programs to ensure the employees who handle this material have the resources and support they need." But the former employees allege neglect at Microsoft's hands.
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Microsoft Anti-Porn Workers Sue Over PTSD

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  • Whither privacy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Prof G ( 578341 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @07:33PM (#53650945)
    Is this how far we've fallen? No more are we concerned with violations of an individual's privacy. Now we are more concerned with the rights of the violators.
    • Is this how far we've fallen? No more are we concerned with violations of an individual's privacy. Now we are more concerned with the rights of the violators.

      Yes, we have fallen this far – especially judging from the responses to your Comment.

      There are still droolers that don't get it, and they never will. Even if they are framed – through no fault of their own – for someone else's misdeeds. Nor even if they make a sarcastic remark that is misinterpreted by MS's spies (or the NSA) as somehow law-breaking, and they end up tangled in our lovely criminal court or even penal system.

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        There's a reason in most western countries that police officers/constables who work on sex-related crimes especially for those that are under the age of 16 has special guidelines they're required to follow. That includes pre and post-operation psychological testing, and can't work in that division longer then 6mo in a 3-4 year period. And almost all places have mandatory counseling that you're required to take afterwards that in itself is usually 6mo-1yr.

    • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @08:36PM (#53651279)
      I think the workers would have a better case if they focused on how Microsoft locked them away and forced them to do the job against their will.
      • by Uberbah ( 647458 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @01:52AM (#53652205)

        Right - just like how secretaries don't have a sexual harassment claim unless the boss locked the exit door before pressuring them into sex. They can always quit!

        • by jafiwam ( 310805 )

          Right - just like how secretaries don't have a sexual harassment claim unless the boss locked the exit door before pressuring them into sex. They can always quit!

          Was sexual harassment in the job description? Chances are, the folks at MS had at least some clue what they were getting into, even if during the training.

          If you are going to have a panty-clutching pearl-waste response to something, at least do it right. That shit above, was a pathetic effort.

        • by msauve ( 701917 )
          So, you think it's valid to compare unwillingly being subjected to illegal behavior in the workplace and voluntarily taking a shitty job. You're either trolling or an idiot.
    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Well, it went out the window when you agreed to the TOS you didn't read.

    • Depends if they go seeking them out, or if they're responding to reports from users of social sites, forums, etc.

  • I vividly remember when "rotten.com", "bme.com", "ogrish" and "The Sickest sites on the Internet" index were a new and highly appreciated kind of never known before entertainment. Sure, looking into the abyss of psychopathia every day might get boring after a while, but it still sounds better than 90% of other jobs on this planet. I guess they just hired the wrong kind of people to do that job. They should have advertised those jobs on above mentioned pages, 4chan, or the likes of it.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @07:56PM (#53651091)

      What you're talking about doesn't even come close to what those guys are talking about. There's a difference between goatse and tubgirl and watching an infant have sexual acts performed on them. I'd describe it more, but I've tried to block it out my memory, and even now there's some things you just can't unsee. While I'm here, I'd also like to point out that when people equate drawn porn to actual child pornography, I immediately disregard that person's opinion because these people don't know what they are talking about.
       
      Source: I've removed illegal content off 4chan.
       
      PS: I'm not sure if the folks at Microsoft got to appreciate the legal differences between what kinds of depictions of animal torture/murder are and are not legal. It's actually very clearly defined!

    • Ahh... the old school is "just pull yourself together" psychiatry, eh?

      This isn't about having to look at sick stuff - it's about not being given sufficient mental/emotional support for doing so. Being told to take a smoke break works about as well as telling soldiers just to look away when their pals get limbs blown off. All MS had to/has to do is provide sufficiently qualified and useful counseling/psychiatry to the people they hire to look at this stuff (ie. have the facility and give them paid time to us

  • Isn't Tey out of a job? Sounds like the perfect fit.
  • by nbannerman ( 974715 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @08:00PM (#53651105)
    As per subject - are these workers doing this stuff full time, year in, year out? In the UK, even the Police who do this are limited to two years on a team that has a responsibility to view the kind of content we're talking about here. Is this the case in companies such as Microsoft? (Note - this was told to me by a copper a few years ago, so, pinch of salt, etc!)
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Similar story with my local police service: people in similar positions are provides both counselling services and mandatory rotation to less exposed investigative areas (~6 months max IIRC).

  • But (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JThundley ( 631154 )

    But they knew this was the job, right? Why would you take a job and then keep working a job that you can't stomach?

    I'd be great for this job, I'm dead on the inside.

    • Let's be fair... Sometimes the paycheck and benefits are more important. I remember times when I put up with some serious garbage because I had a wife and kids at home for whom my paycheck was the only thing that paid the mortgage, utilities and kept food on the table. So I put up with it until I could find another job. It was NOT a happy time at work, but the family and I survived without loosing the house or going on welfare.

      Let's also be far and point out that most of the time there ARE other options fo

    • yea when you have bills to pay you tolerate alot look at are current employment practices its dam near Chinese slave workers why because someone will take the job no matter how shitty.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      But they knew this was the job, right? Why would you take a job and then keep working a job that you can't stomach?

      Because it would be very bad for evolution if the brain became dysfunctional whenever you experienced something traumatic. It has a range of self-defense mechanisms from immediate responses like adrenaline and emotional shutdown to permanently repressed memories and even split personalities and everything in between. We're able to force ourselves to do things way past the point we get emotionally scarred by it, we bottle it up sometime swithout really realizing it until it bursts.

      It's even in the little thi

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @08:10PM (#53651147)

    They got dinged on their Employee Review for *not* watching porn at work.

  • Some people would absolutely love to do this job.
    They already have a nice list of potential candidates, too bad they sent it to the police instead of the HR department.

  • Funny..... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ogdenk ( 712300 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @08:27PM (#53651225)

    Funny.... I'd have PTSD from being forced to engage in warrantless surveillance. Splitting hairs because it's "Microsoft's server, since they aren't the feds they can do anything they want" doesn't make it a good thing to do. They are effectively acting as law enforcement and assisting the feds in sidestepping the 4th amendment. The few people they catch doesn't warrant the intrusion on many people who didn't deserve it. Much like the patriot act and butthole searches at airports. Especially if they report "other crimes" which may be victimless.

    THAT would give me PTSD. If I wanted to be law enforcement and "catch bad guys" I would have gotten a criminal justice degree and worked in law enforcement where there's proper checks and balances.

  • You can probably reduce the stress in the workers monitoring the porn by giving them two extra breaks to work off some of the physical tension their work leads to and a private fapping room so that other workers don't have to watch them. It probably won't help much with those watching the violent videos, but then again, we all know about people who get turned on by that.
  • I mean, won't everyone have nightmares about shrinkage with constant exposure to these materials?

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @11:02PM (#53651803) Homepage

    What was the source of the data that were these workers filtering? Hotmail emails? Office 365 files? Azure storage blobs? I am more interested in this story from the surveillance angle.

  • boggles the mind.

    Surveillance, censorship, repulisive materials, just EW.

    I can't even grasp it.
  • by allo ( 1728082 )

    Why didn't they quit? They knew what they were hired for, then they saw what they saw and still did not quit ... and now they sue?

    And MS should just have hired people from 4chan. They don't get PTSD over such stuff.

  • No wait....

    Think of the adults...

    I am so confused now...
  • They said -- After years of being made to watch the "most twisted" videos on the internet, employees said they suffered severe psychological distress.

    Ok, but who will compensate me for watching Tosh.O all those times in came on late night TV?!

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