Meta faces more trouble in Kenya

Some former employees of Sama in Kenya, Meta's ex-local content moderator have sued both companies over illegal sacking and blacklisting. This is the third time these companies will be sued for issues related to content moderation.

Meta faces more trouble in Kenya
Meta in Kenya

Meta's troubles in Kenya have not ended even after it ended ties with its controversial local content moderator, Sama. In a latest development, a Kenyan court has asked the big tech not to engage its new moderator yet, until the hearing of a new case, filed by 43 content moderators yesterday over illegal sacking and blacklisting.

The hearing is slated for March 31, 2023. This is the third time a case has been filed against Meta in Kenya around its content moderation work.

After facing several toxic workspace accusations backed with lawsuits, Sama, which used to be Meta's largest content moderator in Africa discontinued its content moderating offering for the big tech earlier this year.

Immediately, Facebook's parent company contracted Luxembourg-based, Majorel to replace Sama. Majorel previously worked as TikTok's content moderator in the Middle East and North Africa where its employees claimed that they were treated like robots, reviewing videos of suicide and animal cruelty for less than $3 an hour.

In the new case, the aforementioned content moderators alleged "unlawful termination" by Sama, and discrimination by Majorel, who they claim has blacklisted all of Sama's previous employees. The petition which has been presented to Kenya’s Employment and Labour Relations Court claims that moderators applying for jobs at Majorel were "denied on the basis that they previously worked at [Sama's] facility."

"This is a union-busting operation masquerading as a mass redundancy," Cori Crider, a director at Foxglove Legal. "You can’t just switch suppliers and tell recruiters not to hire your workers because they are ‘troublemakers’—that is because they have the temerity to stand up for themselves."

Foxglove is a technology justice nonprofit that is supporting the lawsuit.

“If Meta is willing to essentially do something approaching union-busting in this context, then moderators who might be inclined to try to organize in other places and other contexts, I think, will almost inevitably be somewhat more intimidated," according to Paul Barrett, deputy director of the Center for Business and Human Rights at New York University, who authored a 2020 report on outsourced content moderation and whose work was included in one of the earlier cases against Meta and Sama.

Recall that in 2022, Daniel Motaung, an ex-Sama content moderator brought the initial lawsuit against Meta and Sama, alleging he was unlawfully fired for organizing a union of moderators protesting against working conditions. Motaung alleged that both companies were guilty of multiple violations of Kenyan law. However, Meta has said that the Kenyan court has no jurisdiction because it is not based in Kenya. The argument has since been overruled.

Still, in East Africa, a lawsuit was filed by Ethiopian researchers Abrham Meareg and Fisseha Tekle, along with Kenyan human rights group Katiba Institute, supported by legal nonprofit Foxglove, in December 2022, accusing Facebook of playing a role in inciting violence during the Ethiopia civil war (also known as Tigray war).

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