June 5, 2023

Meta Prohibited From Laying Off Content Moderators In Kenyan Lawsuit

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A Kenyan court has ruled that Meta is the primary employer of content moderators involved in a lawsuit against the social media giant and is prohibited from laying them off until the case is resolved.

In March, the moderators, who worked for Meta’s content review partner, Sama, filed a lawsuit accusing Meta, Sama and a second subcontractor, Majorel, of union-busting operation masquerading as a mass redundancy

Meta sought to dismiss the case, arguing that it was outside the jurisdiction of Kenyan courts. However, the court rejected Meta’s claim and asserted its authority to hear the case.

According to TechCrunch, the court ruled that Meta was the primary employer of the content moderators, while Sama was “merely an agent…or manager.”

Read: Illegal Layoffs And Backlisting - Meta And Partners Sued In Kenya, Again

Justice Byram Ongaya of Kenya’s employment and labor relations court concluded that the moderators did Meta’s work, used its technology for the work, as well as adhered to its performance and accuracy.

Sama disputed this, insisting that is functions as Meta’s client and isn’t legally empowered to act on the tech giant’s behalf.

So, what happens to the content moderators?

The court decided that the content moderators’ contracts should be extended and prohibited Meta and Sama from laying them off until the case is resolved.

The court found no justifiable reasons for the redundancies and emphasized that “the job of content moderation is available. The applicants will continue working upon the prevailing or better terms in the interim.”

Meta has not replied to TechCrunch’s request for comment, however, the ruling marks a major milestone in determining the roles and rights of content moderators in the tech industry.

Last month, in another major move, over 150 African content moderators voted to establish the first African Content Moderators Union, advocating for improved working conditions and recognition of their rights.

Other Lawsuits

Meta and Sama are facing additional legal challenges on the African continent. South African content moderator Daniel Motaung sued the company for labor and human trafficking, unfair labor relations, union busting and failure to provide “adequate” mental health and psychosocial support.

In December 2022, Ethiopians filed a suit against Meta, accusing the company of failing to swiftly remove Facebook content that incited the deaths of 500,000 Ethiopians during the Tigray War.

It remains to be seen how the recent Kenyan ruling, which affirms the jurisdiction of Kenyan courts, will impact these ongoing lawsuits.

Samara Linton

Community Manager at POCIT | Co-editor of The Colour of Madness: Mental Health and Race in Technicolour (2022), and co-author of Diane Abbott: The Authorised Biography (2020)