A Kenyan court has ruled that Meta was the main employer of content moderators suing the social media giant and its content review partner in Africa, Sama, for unlawful dismissal. The 184 moderators, in the complaint filed in March this year, also alleged that Meta’s new mainland content review partner, Majorel, blacklisted them on instructions from Meta.
On Friday, Judge Byram Ongaya of Kenya’s Labor and Labor Relations Tribunal watered down the social media giant’s plan to recuse itself from the case, saying moderators had done Meta’s job, used its technology to work, as well as complied with its performance and accuracy measures. The court said Sama was “just an agent…or a manager.” Sama disputed this, saying “Meta is a client of Sama and Sama is not legally empowered to act on Meta’s behalf”.
Meta did not respond to a request for comment.
The latest development is a blow to Meta, which has sought to distance itself from the petition saying 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 defendants who provided the digital or virtual workspace to the plaintiffs. The first and second respondents exercise control by imposing operational requirements and performance standards. The first and second defendants then repaid the compensation through the agent [Sama]“, said the court.
“The Third Respondent [Sama] acted as agent for the owner of the content moderation work the first and second responders [Meta Platforms Inc and Meta Platforms Ireland Limited]there is nothing in the arrangements to absolve the first and second responders as primary and primary employers of content moderators.
Additionally, the court ordered that the moderators’ contracts be extended and also barred Meta and Sama from firing them, pending the decision of the case. The court issued the instructions stating that there was no proper justification for the dismissals and that it had “found content moderation work to be available. Applicants will continue to work under current or better terms until then.
Moderators, recruited from across the continent including Ethiopia, Uganda, Somalia and South Africa, sift through social media posts on Meta platforms to remove content that perpetuates and perpetuates hate, misinformation and violence.
The moderators allege that Sama terminated them unlawfully after failing to issue them notices of dismissal as required by Kenyan law. The lawsuit also alleges, among other issues, that the moderators were not given 30 days notice of termination and that their terminal fees were indexed to their signing of nondisclosure documents.
Sama has in the past told TechCrunch that he abides by Kenyan law and communicated the decision to discontinue content moderation at a town hall, as well as via email and notification letters.
Sama, whose clients include OpenAI, ditched Meta’s contract and content review services and issued layoff notices to 260 moderators to focus on tagging work (computer vision data annotation).
Meta and Sama face two more 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” psychological and psychosocial support. Motaung alleges he was fired for staging a strike in 2019 and attempting to organize Sama employees.
The Ethiopians filed another complaint in December last year for claiming that the social media giant had not used enough security measures on Facebook, which in turn fueled the disputes that have of the dead, including the father of one of the petitioners and 500,000 Ethiopians. during the Tigray War.