In Kenya, a court has ordered the immediate suspension of a large-scale termination of numerous content moderators employed by a subcontractor of Meta, the parent company of Facebook. The court ruling also instructed Facebook to offer counseling services to the affected employees.
The lawsuit was filed by 184 moderators working for Sama, an outsourcing firm for Meta, who claimed that their dismissals were unlawful. The judge in the labor court case, Byram Ongaya, issued a 142-page ruling stating that Meta and Sama are prohibited from terminating the moderators’ contracts until the legality of the dismissals is determined.
Additionally, the court ordered that any contracts set to expire before the resolution of the lawsuit must be extended. The judge also prohibited Meta’s new outsourcing firm, Majorel, from blacklisting the moderators from future employment opportunities in the same roles. Furthermore, Meta was directed to provide proper medical, psychiatric, and psychological care to the petitioners and other Facebook content moderators.
Meta, headquartered in California and owning platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp, expressed its intention to appeal the court’s decision. The company has previously argued that it has no official presence in Kenya and that the moderators are not directly employed by Meta.
The petitioners’ lawyer, Mercy Mutemi, emphasized the significance of the court recognizing Facebook as the true employer of the moderators. Mutemi stated that they were pleased with the court orders, highlighting the broader implications for the social media and artificial intelligence industries.
Legal activist firm Foxglove, based in the UK and supporting the case, described the court ruling as a significant blow to Facebook’s outsourcing model, which has been criticized for evading responsibility for the well-being of its crucial safety workers.
Meta has faced scrutiny over the working conditions of content moderators, who often encounter disturbing and hateful content without adequate support for their mental well-being. This is not the only legal case Meta is currently facing in Kenya. Another case was brought forward by a former employee of Sama, alleging poor working conditions and a lack of mental health support. Meta has appealed the jurisdiction ruling in that case. Additionally, Meta is facing a complaint accusing the company of failing to address online hate speech in Africa, resulting in the murder of a university professor in Ethiopia. The complainants are demanding a $1.6 billion fund for compensation.
It is important to note that AFP, the news agency, collaborates with Meta in providing fact-checking services in various regions worldwide, including Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa.