A Kenyan court has ruled that Meta is the main employer of content moderators and is suing the social media giant and its content review partner in Africa, Sama, for wrongful dismissal. The 184 moderators also alleged in the lawsuit filed in March this year that Meta’s new content review partner on the continent, Majorel, blacklisted them at Meta’s direction.
Kenya Labor and Industrial Relations Court Judge Byram Ongaya on Friday softened the social media giant’s plan to pull out of the case, saying the moderators did Meta’s work, used their technology to do the work and adhered to their standards of performance and accuracy. The court said Sama was “merely an agent… or manager.” Sama denied this, saying, “Meta is a client of Sama and Sama is not legally authorized to act on Meta’s behalf.”
Meta did not respond to a request for comment.
The latest development comes as a blow to Meta, which has attempted to distance itself from the petition, claiming it is not the moderators’ employer.
“The evidence is that the obligation to provide the digital work of content moderation rests with the first and second respondents who provided the digital or virtual workspace to the applicants.” The first and second respondents exercise control by using the operational Set requirements and performance standards. The defendants 1 and 2 then paid back the remuneration through the intermediary [Sama]’ said the court.
“The third interviewee [Sama] The first and second respondents acted as agents of the owner of the content moderation work [Meta Platforms Inc and Meta Platforms Ireland Limited]there is nothing in the agreements to indemnify the first and second defendants as the primary and primary employers of the content moderators.”
In addition, the court ordered that the presenters’ contracts be renewed and also barred Meta and Sama from firing them until the case was decided. The court stated in the instructions that there was no proper justification for the dismissals and that it “determined that the content moderation post was available.” In the meantime, the applicants will continue to work under the current or better conditions.”
Moderators hired from across the continent, including Ethiopia, Uganda, Somalia and South Africa, sift through social media posts on Meta’s platforms to remove content that spreads and perpetuates hate, misinformation and violence.
The presenters allege that Sama unlawfully fired them after failing to issue them redundancy notices as required by Kenyan law. The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that the moderators were not served 30 days’ notice and that their final compensation was conditional on the signing of confidentiality documents.
Sama has told TechCrunch in the past that it has respected Kenyan laws and shared the decision to stop moderating content at a town hall and via email and notification letters.
Sama, whose clients include OpenAI, has discontinued Meta’s contract and content review services and fired 260 moderators to focus on labeling work (annotation of computer vision data).
Meta and Sama face two other lawsuits in Kenya; Daniel Motaung, a South African, sued the company for labor and human trafficking, unfair labor relations, union busting and failure to provide “adequate” mental health and psychosocial support. Motaung claims he was fired for organizing a strike in 2019 and trying to unionize Sama’s employees.
Ethiopians filed another lawsuit in December last year over allegations that the social media giant failed to take adequate safety measures on Facebook, which in turn fueled the conflict that resulted in deaths, including the father of one of the petitioners and 500,000 Ethiopians during the Tigray War.