For the third time, Facebook’s parent company Meta is facing a lawsuit in Kenya. This time, it’s related to the allegedly unlawful termination of moderators working for Meta’s content moderation partner Sama.
Filed before the employment and labor relations court, the petition primarily accuses Sama of unlawful dismissal of its employees. However, Meta and its new Luxembourg-based content moderation partner Majorel have been sued as well for their alleged involvement in the blacklisting of the affected moderators.
In the petition, 43 affected content moderators have accused Sama of dismissing around 260 of them unlawfully without issuing any redundancy notices.
The petition also claims Sama of forcing the moderators to sign non-disclosure agreements by hinging their terminal dues on it.
The lawsuit further accuses the content moderation firm of not issuing the moderators a 30-day notice period. Kenyan law requires employers to provide a 30-day notice when laying off employees.
Further adding to the woes of moderators’ woes, Majorel has blacklisted them from employment – the petitioners claimed. According to the lawsuit, when content moderators who previously worked at Sama applied for employment at Majorel, they were “denied on the basis that they previously worked at the 3rd Respondent’s (Sama) facility.”.
Meta now faces a legal debacle for allegedly instructing their new content moderation partner to blacklist the affected moderators.
Sama’s decision to shut down its content moderation arm
Filing a lawsuit against Sama and Meta in 2022, an ex-Sama employee named Motuang accused them of human trafficking and forced labor. The South African was laid off by Sama in 2019 while trying to unionize the company’s employees and organizing a strike.
Motuang also accused the tech giant and its content moderation partner of union busting, unfair labor relations, and insufficient psychological and mental health support.
It was following the heat of this lawsuit that Sama decided to stop providing content moderation services and drop the contract with Meta.
Instead, Sama will now focus on computer vision data annotation work. Sama boasts a large clientele, including OpenAI – the company behind ChatGPT.
Unsurprisingly, Sama has pushed back against the petition by claiming to have followed Kenyan law to the letter and going “above and beyond what is required”. According to the company, its decision to discontinue content moderation was communicated in a town hall. An email and the notification letter were sent, too, Sama claimed in a statement it issued.
The accused content moderation firm went on to deny withholding any lawfully owed compensation.
The outcome of the lawsuit remains to be seen. However, many of the affected content moderators were sourced from other African countries. Unless they manage to secure employment by 31st March, they will be forced to leave Kenya.
Facing three lawsuits in Kenya in quick succession is certainly bad news for Meta. In December 2022, Ethiopians filed a lawsuit accusing Meta of indirectly fueling conflicts by failing to control the spread of hateful content on Facebook. The conflicts led to the deaths of about 500,000 Ethiopians.