Microsoft’s online safety team works on removing and reporting illegal images.
Microsoft has been sued by two of its former employees who claim to have suffered PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) after watching child porn as part of their content monitoring job.
Henry Soto and Greg Blauert, the plaintiffs, worked for Microsoft’s online safety team which focuses on complying with 2008 federal legislation that requires technology firms to report child pornography and other crimes to the authorities.
The online safety team was established to review potentially illegal depictions, videos and written materials and to decide whether to remove them and/or to report them to law enforcement.
Soto and Blauert claim that the role required them to view videos and photos of murder, child abuse, violent adult pornography and bestiality.
In the lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court, the employees allege that members of Microsoft’s Online Safety Team had God-like status and could literally view any customer’s communications at any time.
The lawsuit says both men’s efforts were instrumental in saving children’s lives and providing evidence for successful prosecutions.
According to the complaint, Soto says he was reassigned to the online safety team for which he did not opt.
The complaint alleges that Microsoft did little to warn or prepare them about the likely dangerous impact of reviewing the depictions.
In a statement, a Microsoft spokeswoman said the company disagreed with the plaintiffs’ claims, saying that the company offers a wellness programme.
The company said: “Microsoft 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 company noted that the work at the online safety team is difficult, but critically important to a safer and more trusted internet.
“The health and safety of our employees who do this difficult work is a top priority.”