Former Microsoft Employees Say Jobs Caused PTSD

Two former Microsoft employees, in a suit against the company, say their work reviewing videos of child pornography, abuse and other graphic material flagged for removal gave them post-traumatic stress disorder.

Henry Soto and Greg Blauert, the plaintiffs, worked on teams charged with reviewing and removing child pornography, depictions of killings, bestiality and other disturbing images, videos and accounts. They sued the Redmond company in King County Superior Court on Dec. 30.

The men say they were not given proper mental-health support as they suffered the psychological impact of reviewing the graphic depictions, the complaint said. The complaint alleges Microsoft was negligent and violated prohibitions of discrimination based on disabilities.

In a statement, a Microsoft spokeswoman said the company disagreed with the plaintiffs' claims.

"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 said.

Microsoft says it provides employees who review such images over the course of their job mandatory meetings with a psychologist, as well as group meetings and training to mitigate the trauma of viewing the material.

Employees who review such material cannot do it from a personal device or at their regular workstation, the company says, and technological means such as blurring and removing color are designed to render images less graphic.

Employees who don't want to do that work are reassigned to other tasks, the company said.

It is unclear if those practices were in place at the time Soto and Blauert were working with Microsoft's online safety team, which reviews online content for removal in accordance with child-pornography laws and Microsoft's policy guidelines.

Soto started working at Microsoft in 2007, and in 2008 was transferred to the online safety unit.

Microsoft began providing the team a...

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