TROUBLING IMAGES

For these Microsoft workers charged with verifying images of child porn, the strain is too much

Obsession
The Office
Obsession
The Office

After screening thousands of images and videos of child pornography, a pair of Microsoft employees claim they are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to the BBC, Henry Soto and Greg Blauert were responsible for verifying the content of that images flagged as potentially illegal. The two worked for Microsoft’s online safety team, which was responsible for checking images surfaced by software or reported as offensive, and forwarding illegal ones to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

In a lawsuit against the company, they allege Microsoft did little to prepare them for their jobs, and offered little support after they struggled with the demands of their job, which Microsoft denies. The software giant also tried to make the work easier by manipulating the images to make them less graphic, the BBC said. The photos are blurred, rendered in black and white and shown only in thumbnail sizes. Audio is removed from video.

Still, the two men had trouble coping.

Blauert had a mental breakdown in 2013, according to their complaint, and Soto said he suffered panic attacks, depression, hallucinations, and had trouble spending time with children, including his son. The men said Microsoft minimized their complaints, suggesting they take a walk or play video games to take their minds of it, and told them if they wanted to transfer, they would have to apply for a new job.

Microsoft has rejected Soto and Blauert’s claims. The company said it acknowledges the difficulty of the job and that the employees had access to mental-health professionals and an individual wellness plan to “ensure those who handle this material have the resources and support they need,” a spokesman told Quartz.

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