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Tánaiste wrote to Facebook about ‘stress’ concerns at service provider

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar was told there was no mechanism for investigating work-related stress on a par with that for investigating workplace accidents in briefing material ahead of a meeting with Facebook moderators.

Mr Varadkar met a group of social media content moderators earlier this year where concerns were raised over working conditions, including work-from-home arrangements, access to psychological support and obligatory non-disclosure agreements.

Briefing material for the Tánaiste said the meeting would centre on the “stress and psychological impact” on workers from viewing harmful online content.

Mr Varadkar was also told about apparently “different terms and conditions” that applied to people working for a contractor who moderate online content on behalf of Facebook.

The briefing said social media content moderators had access to the same workplace health and safety legislation as any other employee. The Tánaiste was also told there were “specific stressors inherent in this type of work”, and that staff needed appropriate training, ongoing debriefing and supervisions.

The briefing said: “There is no method for investigating work-related stress on a par with investigating work-related accidents.”

Mr Varadkar was told, however, that employers had an obligation to protect workers from anything that could lead to an injury, including mental ill health.

Similar work

Following the meeting, the Tánaiste wrote directly to Facebook raising the concerns of staff who work with Covalen, a service provider to the social media giant.

He said: “Broadly speaking, the content moderators working in Covalen feel that the terms and conditions attached to their outsourced posts are significantly inferior to those enjoyed by those doing similar work but employed directly by Facebook.”

Also raised in the letter were concerns over access to counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists to “support [staff] when they encounter personal difficulties as a result of the work they carry out”.

Mr Varadkar’s letter said: “They stated that the quality of mental health services available were inadequate, with health insurance available to content moderators at their own cost rather than as a benefit”.

He concluded his letter by saying: “I encourage Facebook and its partners to engage with the Health and Safety Authority and Workplace Relations Commission, as these organisations are available to offer guidance and assistance to resolve workplace issues”.

High standard

A letter from their head of public policy, Dualta Ó Broin, said a high standard of health and safety measures had been put in place for offices that “not only meet but go beyond HSE guidelines”.

Facebook said it had a dedicated team of clinical and counselling psychologists available to work with content moderators.

In a statement, a Department of Enterprise spokesman said: “The Tánaiste has met with internet content moderators to listen to their concerns. These workers provide a really important service in keeping us all safe.

“The Tánaiste followed up on the issues raised by the workers, directly with the company in question, and the reply received has been shared with those in attendance at the meeting.

“The Health and Safety Authority, the independent regulator for workplace safety, is following up on complaints received.”

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How to prepare your Facebook account for your digital afterlife

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Today, our online lives are where we share a lot of private and personal information, especially on social media platforms where we share many of our thoughts, post photos and videos over the time we have spent online. Among these social media platforms, Facebook is the most used social media service today. A lot of us, our friends and our family members have a Facebook account. We post and share everything from our private photos to a personal message via Facebook.

But have you wondered what happens to your Facebook account and the information (like posts, comments, photos, videos, etc.) that you have created and accumulated on the service after your time?

■ What will happen to my account?

■ Who can access your profiles?

■ Who will own your account and data?

■ How to manage it when such a time comes?

Facebook has added features to your account so that you can decide what happens to your account when such a time arises. Follow the steps given below to set it up and ensure that the information in your Facebook accounts is handed over to someone else safely or managed according to your choice.

Setting up Facebook’s legacy contact:

In the case of Facebook, you can choose to memorialise your account and hand over the control to a ‘Legacy contact’ of your choice or altogether delete your profile after your time.

Step 1: To set up your legacy contact, you can visit the ‘Settings & privacy’ option under your profile and select the ‘Memorialisation settings’ under ‘General Account settings’. You can also sign in to your account and visit https://www.facebook.com/settings to access this setting.

Step 2: Now, you can choose a legacy contact in this setting by searching for and adding a friend from your account as your legacy contact. Do note that, once memorialised, the legacy contact can only moderate the posts on your page and not post on your behalf.

Step 3: The following setting is to choose whether to allow your legacy contact to download all your data that you have created or shared on your Facebook account like posts, photos, videos etc.

Step 4: The final setting on this page could be considered an alternative to choosing a legacy contact. This setting is to delete your complete Facebook account once you pass away. Facebook needs to be informed about your death and requires verifying it with valid documentation to activate this feature. The company will delete all your information on Facebook on completion of this process.

To know more about these settings, you can visit the FAQ page on legacy contact.

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Big EU lawsuit against Facebook morphs into 3-year ‘partnership’ with complainants

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Three years ago, a group of EU consumer agencies launched a multi-country lawsuit against Facebook, accusing the social media giant of having illegally harvested the data of millions of users.

More than 300,000 angry Facebook users positioned themselves behind the collective action suit, which promised to award them individual monetary damages if the company was found guilty of wrongdoing.

On Friday, those lawsuits quietly morphed into a brand new partnership with Facebook.

Euroconsumers, the umbrella organization behind the Spanish, Italian, Belgian and Portuguese lawsuits, announced they were entering a partnership with the company focused on the “safety and privacy” of Facebook users.

The move comes after POLITICO reported that Euroconsumers had settled its lawsuit with Facebook at the end of April — and highlights the fact that collective action lawsuits rarely make it over the finish line in Europe, sheltering companies from the type of action that can produce crippling damages in U.S. courts while leaving consumers with little recourse.

Originally, Euroconsumers had told people who joined the case it would seek compensation of €200 for every Facebook user whose data was mishandled.

In the end, though, there will be no court decision, no admission of wrongdoing by Facebook and no direct payment from the company to consumers as a result of the settlement, according to Euroconsumers.

Instead, the consumer groups and Facebook said they were forming a joint committee focused on three priorities: sustainability, digital empowerment and fighting scams. The issue of privacy — which was the explicit focus of the lawsuit — is the “umbrella” under which the thee priorities fall.

As for the consumers, they are being promised a vague consolation prize.

The four consumer groups said they would commit to “reward” consumers who joined the original lawsuit with “a package to help consumers be safe online” — but no hard cash.

Asked whether Facebook had paid money to Euroconsumers in the settlement, the group declined to comment. POLITICO reached out to Facebook, but the company didn’t give an immediate response apart from the press release.

Meanwhile, the committee isn’t committed to producing any specific results.

“There are specific initiatives in the making, but there will also be a consumer reporting channel. We will able to report problems that emerge, like feedback from our members,” said Els Bruggeman, head of policy at Euroconsumers.

A spokesperson for the group said: “It’s the moment to try to influence the reasoning from companies who are managed far away.”

Legally speaking, though, the heat is off Facebook.

The consumer groups will evaluate their collaboration in three years.

“An agreement for one year would be too short. Three years is long enough to be able to evaluate. There will be a lot of changes in the digital world in that period,” added the spokesperson.

In the meantime, a change in legislation may give future collective action lawsuits in Europe more teeth: A directive finalized late last year could lead to bigger pan-European collective redress cases.

Want more analysis from POLITICO? POLITICO Pro is our premium intelligence service for professionals. From financial services to trade, technology, cybersecurity and more, Pro delivers real time intelligence, deep insight and breaking scoops you need to keep one step ahead. Email [email protected] to request a complimentary trial.

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Russian watchdog demands that Facebook delete post insulting WWII veterans

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MOSCOW, May 29. /TASS/. Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) demanded that US company Facebook delete an Instagram post that insults the memory of World War II veterans, the watchdog said on its website on Friday.

“Roskomnadzor has sent a letter to Facebook Inc top management, demanding that content insulting the memory of World War II veterans be deleted,” the watchdog said. “The governmental agency found the unlawful post on the Instagram social network, owned by Facebook.”

According to Roskomnadzor, publication of clearly offensive information that insults Russia’s military glory and memorable dates, or desecrates military glory symbols, or offends WWII veterans constitutes a criminal offense in Russia and is subject to criminal proscution.

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