Former Facebook Content Moderator in Kenya Sues Company Over Poor Working Conditions

Former Facebook Content Moderator in Kenya Sues Company Over Poor Working Conditions

  • The South African, Daniel Motaung, was recruited in 2019 by Sama, a Facebook local outsourcing company in Nairobi
  • Motaung argued in his petition that he was not informed about the kind of job he was coming to do in Kenya, only to learn later it was content moderation
  • He decried poor pay, and psychological and mental torture resulting from disturbing content he monitored at Meta

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Former Facebook worker Daniel Motaung has sued the company over poor working conditions.

Lawyer Mercy Mutemi representing Facebook worker at Milimani law courts, Nairobi.
Mutemi said Facebook moderators are employed without prior knowledge of the work they do. Photo: Reuters.
Source: UGC

Motaung was fired after raising concerns about forming a worker union at Sama, Meta's local outsourcing company in Nairobi, Kenya.

Working conditions

In a petition filed at Milimani court, Motaung argued Facebook content moderators in Kenya are subjected to unreasonable working conditions, which is against the country's employment policies enshrined in its constitution.

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The South African cited irregular pay, inadequate mental health support, union-busting, and violations of workers' privacy and dignity.

He sued Meta and Sama, seeking financial compensation, the same health care and pay scale, and protection from the union, adding that the office should be subjected to an independent human rights audit.

According to a statement by Foxglove, a London-based legal nonprofit that supports Facebook content moderators, Motaung called upon the court "to order Facebook and its outsourcing companies to end exploitation in its Nairobi moderation hub.”

Misleading job ads

Sama hired Moutang in 2019 without a proper description of the job and he later learned it was content moderation when he reviewed a disturbing video on Facebook.

“When I went to Kenya, I went to Kenya because I wanted to change my life. I wanted to change the life of my family. I came out a different person, a person who has been destroyed.”

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The company is accused of recruiting people from poor backgrounds in Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda and other countries in Africa with “misleading job ads”.

The petition also stated that it fails to disclose the nature of the work to prepare the moderators psychologically and ends up exposing them to mental health problems.

“We found a lot of Africans were forced into forced labour situations and human trafficking. When you leave your country for a job that you didn’t apply for, that amounts to human trafficking," said Mercy Mutemi, Motaung's lawyer.

According to the Guardian, Meta said it is responsible for taking care of content moderators and requires its partners to offer good working conditions to them.

“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,” said Meta's spokesman.

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Sama refused to comment on the issue, dismissing claims that its working conditions were unfavourable to workers.

This is not the first time Meta is sued by workers for exposure to poor conditions and disturbing content.

Washington Post reported that in 2020, agreed to pay $52 million (over KSh 6 billion) to the US content moderators who filed a lawsuit for repeatedly being exposed to dirty content.

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“I’ve been waiting for this moment! Fenty Beauty and Fenty Skin are finally dropping in Africa,” she said in a Facebook post.

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