On Tuesday, a former content moderator for the Facebook parent company, Meta Platforms Inc, in Kenya, sued the company over the poor working conditions they suffer and has demanded financial compensation through her counsel.
The petition, which was also filed against Meta’s local outsourcing company Sama, claims workers moderating Facebook posts in Kenya have been subjected to unreasonable working conditions, including irregular pay, inadequate mental health support, union-busting, and violations of their privacy and dignity, therefore, also violating the Kenyan constitution.
The case, filed on behalf of a group, demands monetary damages, an order requiring outsourced moderators to have the same healthcare and pay scale as Meta workers, protection of labour unions’ rights, and an unbiased human rights audit of the office.
The lawsuit’s demands for action are far more complex and broad-based than in previous cases, and they might have far-reaching consequences on Facebook beyond Kenya.
Sama has previously denied charges that its employees were paid unfairly, that the recruitment process was confusing, or that its mental health benefits were inadequate before viewing the case.
“We take our responsibility to the people who review content for Meta seriously and require our 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,” a statement by Meta’s spokesperson reads.
“It could have ripple effects. Facebook is going to have to reveal a lot about how it runs its moderation operation,” said Odanga Madung, a fellow at the Mozilla Foundation, a US-based global nonprofit dedicated to internet rights.
Last year, a California judge accepted a $85 million settlement between Facebook and over 10,000 content moderators who asserted the platform failed to safeguard them from psychological harm caused by their exposure to graphic and violent images.
Although Facebook is yet to admit any wrongdoing in the California case, they have agreed to engage in actions that will see its content moderators, who are employed by third-party vendors, feel safe around work spaces.
A law firm in Kenya had threatened to sue Meta and its main subcontractor for content moderation in Africa, Sama, over claimed unhealthy and unfair working conditions at the latter’s hub in Kenya, Technext reported a few weeks ago. A claim from which Meta distanced itself.
The Kenyan lawsuit was filed on behalf of Daniel Motaung, recruited in 2019 from South Africa to work for Sama in Nairobi. Motaung says he was not given details of the nature of the Facebook post review work prior to his arrival.
The first video Motaung remembers moderating was a beheading. The disturbing content piled up, but Motaung says his pay and mental health support were inadequate.
Motaung told Reuters: “I have been diagnosed with severe PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), I am living …a horror movie.”
Meta and Sama, according to Motaung’s lawyers, created a dangerous and demeaning workplace in which workers were not guaranteed the same privileges as employees in other nations.
If in Dublin, people can’t look at harmful content for two hours, that should be the rule everywhere, If they need to have a psychologist on call that should apply everywhere.Motaung’s lawyer Mercy Mutemi
Motaung attempted to create a union to protect the company’s about 200 Nairobi workers shortly after joining Sama. Soon after, he was fired, which he and his lawyers claim was because of the attempted unionization. The Kenyan constitution recognizes trade union rights.
A complete cover story on the supposed underground secrets reportedly occurring in Sama’s office in Nairobi, Kenya, and the inhumane treatment of its African contract staff was published earlier on TIME Magazine in February 2022.
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