Former Meta Content Moderator Sues Company In Kenya

A former content moderator vetting content for Facebook in Africa on Tuesday reportedly filed a lawsuit against Facebook owner Meta alleging poor working conditions for contractors violate the Kenyan constitution.

The action, which also names Meta outsourcing company Sama, alleges that staff moderating Facebook content in Kenya are subjected to unreasonable working conditions including irregular pay, inadequate mental health support, illegal anti-union activity and violations of privacy and dignity, according to Reuters.

The lawsuit, filed by one person on behalf of a group, seeks financial compensation, as well as for outsourced moderators to be given the same health care and pay as Meta employees, protection of unionisation rights and an independent human rights audit of the Sama office in question.

Image credit: Meta

Working conditions

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Daniel Motaung, recruited in 2019 from South Africa to work for Sama in Nairobi.

As detailed in a Time magazine investigation in February, Motaung claims Sama recruits content moderators under false pretences, telling them they are signing up for call centre jobs, and that they only learn the true nature of their roles after relocating and signing employment contracts.

Motaung said he repeatedly viewed disturbing content and that his pay and mental health support were inadequate.

His lawyers said conditions for Sama staff in Kenya are dangerous and degrading.

“If in Dublin, people can’t look at harmful content for two hours, that should be the rule everywhere,” Motaung’s lawyer Mercy Mutemi told Reuters.

Unionisation

“If they need to have a psychologist on call that should apply everywhere.”

Shortly after joining Sama Motaung tried to form a union to advocate for the company’s roughly 200 workers in Nairobi, but was fired soon after.

He and his lawyers say this was because of the unionisation attempt, which would go against Kenya’s constitutional protections for union activity. Sama has not comment on this allegation.

However, a letter sent by Sama’s lawyers to Sotaung’s attorney Mutemi, excerpts of which were later reported by news outlets, claims that there is “absolutely no basis for the allegation that your client was unfairly dismissed”.

A law firm representing Meta in Kenya said in a letter to Mutemi there was “no employer/employee relationship” between Sotaung and Meta and that “no action can therefore be brought against Meta”.

Mental health support

Meta said it takes its responsibility to people who vet its content “seriously” and that it requires its partners to provide “industry-leading pay, benefits and support”.

“We also encourage content reviewers to raise issues when they become aware of them and regularly conduct independent audits to ensure our partners are meeting the high standards we expect,” the company said in a statement.

Sama declined to comment before seeing the lawsuit but has in the past rejected claims that employees received unfair pay, that its recruitment process was misleading or that it provided inadequate mental health benefits.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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