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Microsoft employees sue over trauma they claim was caused by viewing extreme content

Two Microsoft employees are suing the company for emotional trauma they claim to have suffered while employed as part of its online safety team. Henry Soto and Greg Blauert are alleging negligence, disability discrimination, and violations of the consumer protection act.

The suit alleges that Soto and Blauert were exposed to “videos and photographs designed to entertain the most twisted and sick-minded people in the world” during the time they spent as part of the team. Their role was to vet potentially offensive content, deciding what should be removed and what should be reported to law enforcement.

They were expected to view extreme content including bestiality, videos of people dying, and even child pornography. The lawsuit alleges that they were not given proper warning about the extent to which the job could affect their psyche, according to a report from Courthouse News.

Soto apparently suffered from nightmares and disturbing hallucinations as a result of his job. Blauert experienced an increase in feelings of anger, as well as nightmares, and eventually had a physical and mental breakdown. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries apparently denied both men’s claims for workers’ compensation.

Rather than offering members of the online safety team access to trained therapists, Microsoft is said to have implemented its own wellness program. Employees were encouraged to take part in activities like taking walks, going outside for a smoke break, and playing video games to distract them from the disturbing content they were being exposed to.

The plaintiffs would like to see the team receive a level of support and protection that is similar to what is received by Microsoft’s digital crimes unit, which has access to a larger budget. Some of the changes being suggested by Soto and Blauert include mandatory rotations out of the program, mandatory weekly meetings with a psychologist, and a spousal wellness program.