Facebook Moderators In Kenya Are Winning Key Battles In War Against Meta

By  |  June 6, 2023

The Employment Court has ruled that social media giant Meta is the primary employer of Facebook content moderators in Kenya while also ordering the suspension of the mass termination of dozens of content moderators by a subcontractor for Facebook’s parent firm Meta. The court, the AFP reports, also mandated the social media behemoth to provide support to affected workers.

In March, 184 moderators who were employed in Nairobi by Sama, an outsourcing company for Meta, filed a lawsuit, arguing that their termination was “unlawful”.

Judge Byram Ongaya of the labour court stated in a 142-page decision that Meta and Sama were “restrained from terminating the contracts” until the outcome of the action contesting the validity of the termination.

“An interim order is hereby issued that any contracts that were to lapse before the determination of the petition be extended” until the case is settled, the judge added.

Additionally, Ongaya prohibited Majorel, a new outsourcing company for Facebook with headquarters in Luxembourg, from excluding the moderators from consideration for similar positions. It was also mandated that Meta, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, “provide proper medical, psychiatric and psychological care for the petitioners and other Facebook content moderators.”

Meta informed the court that it will be appealing the judgment. The internet giant with headquarters in California claims that the complainants are not employees of Meta and that it has no formal presence in the East African nation.

Mercy Mutemi, the attorney for the petitioners, said it was “critical that the court has found Facebook is the true employer of its moderators” and that their clients were “very pleased” with the rulings.

“This ruling matters not just for the petitioners but the entire social media and AI industry,” Mutemi said in a statement.

The suit against Meta is being supported by the British legal advocacy group Foxglove, which described the decision as “a major blow to the outsourcing model Facebook uses to avoid responsibility for its key safety workers.”

The working conditions of Meta’s content moderators have come under fire from those who claim they spend hours concentrating on unsettling and abusive remarks with little consideration for their own well-being. In Kenya, the tech firm is caught up in two further court disputes.

Daniel Motaung, a former Sama employee from South Africa, complained in Kenya in 2022 about Sama and Facebook, citing, among other things, subpar working conditions and a dearth of mental health care. In February, the Nairobi labor relations court ruled that Motaung’s case would be heard there. The verdict has been appealed by Meta.

Another complaint against the social media behemoth has been filed in Kenya, where two Ethiopian citizens and a local NGO have accused Meta of neglecting to take action against online hate speech in Africa.

The complainants demanded the establishment of a USD 1.6 B fund to recompense the victims, alleging that this inaction led to the death of a university professor in Ethiopia.

Featured Image Credits: Rafapress/Zoonar/IMAGO

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