Content Moderators for Facebook win vital case against employers for maltreatment

Content Moderators for Facebook win vital case against employers for maltreatment
Sama in Nairobi

Former employees of Facebook content moderators have won a decisive court victory in attempt to regain stolen wages among serious accusations of mistreatment. The Facebook content moderators, employed by Sama AI, a tech company based in Nairobi, Kenya, are paid $2.20 an hour to sift through masses of data to flag illegal and hateful content across Africa. Whilst this may seem at first sight a rather harmless task, workers are expected to view some nefarious content. Most of the 260 workers employed at Sama are exposed to murders, rapes, suicides and child sexual abuse videos, pictures and content. 


Alongside poor pay and difficult working conditions, employees at Sama are reportedly exposed to myriad other illegal and harmful situations. In 2019, Daniel Motaung, a former content moderator at Sama was fired for organising workers to start a union and sued Meta and Sama for unreasonable termination. During the case a number of dubious issues were brought to the courts attention, such as accusations of human trafficking, deceptive hiring techniques, forced labour and of course, union busting. 


After the lawsuit, Sama announced that it would not renew it’s contract with Facebook once it expired in March of this year. 260 workers were laid off, some at risk of deportation, 184 workers sued Sama for not giving them the 30-day required for termination and worse, for blacklisting them from the industry. This meant that Majorel, the company replacing Sama in moderating content for Facebook, refused to employ former employees. 


During a hearing at Nairobi’s employment court, a judge ruled that they could not lay off workers without proper notice and ordered Facebook to rip up the Majorel contract and restore it’s deal with Sama in order to employ previous content moderators. Later, Sama then claimed that it had no work for them and refused to pay them for the whole of April. 


This dispute has continued into this year. In April, moderators staged a sit in protest asking the court to compel Sama to pay them. Last month, they won a significant victory with Judge Byram Ongaya ordering Sama to pay back wages interestingly noting that Facebook was their “true employer” passing some responsibility up to Meta. 


impACT International wishes to note that without content moderators on social media sites, the very fabric of modern life would be disrupted. The modern social network relies on social media and when damaging and traumatising content is able to roam freely, there is little chance that it will operate in the manner that is useful. Content moderators not only deserve better treatment from their employers but a substantial pay rise alongside health benefits to deal with the workload. 


Further, it is clear that Facebook and their parent company Meta have been able to bypass criticisms of poor labour treatment by outsourcing much of it’s work to local companies. Despite the fact that Africa is a huge market for Meta and Facebook, the structure of their outsourcing means that they are able to extract vast quantities and data from the continent, whilst paying those who maintain it’s structure a pittance. impACT urges Nairobi’s employment court and those involved in the legal process with Sama to take their complaint to Kenya’s High Court continue momentum in this case.


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