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Susan, a former employee of the crime app Citizen, applied in 2019 for a position as a curator of the platform’s content and notifications. She had a writing background, was struggling to find work in New York City, and figured she could make some money while looking for a better fit.

When she left less than a year later, Susan said she drank too much from the stress of work, had trouble sleeping, and at one point broke her tooth while talking over the police scanner for hours. When her mental health deteriorated, her bosses at Citizen didn’t support her, Susan said.

“They don’t even know what’s going on in our ears,” said Susan, who the Guardian identifies under a pseudonym for fear of the company’s repercussions. She recalled feeling regularly pressured to keep the performance going, despite the increasingly unsettling content that workers like her were hosting.

“The job is similar to most internet moderation, but in some ways it’s worse because you’re watching videos right from the scene of a bloody crash, often near where you live,” she said. “You listen to the craziest shit.”

Citizen uses location data to deliver local crime information to millions of users, which it gathers through police scanners. The app made headlines earlier this month because it offered $ 30,000 to anyone who could find a man accused of starting a California wildfire, raising a number of ethical concerns. However, former employees say the episode is nowhere near the only worrying thing about the company, and that the startup has long been a toxic place to work.

“The job is very tough, very traumatic and requires a lot of skilled work,” said Susan. “It attracts a creative, smart, empathetic person. But there is a gap between the boss and the boss, who don’t seem to care about our well-being at all. “

Citizen denies the claims. “Our employees are our lifeblood,” said a Citizen spokesman, adding that the company “takes great care to prioritize their health and wellbeing.”

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