July 24, 2023

TikTok Prepares For Scrutiny As Kenyan Content Moderators Sue Meta

Content Moderators

A leaked internal document from TikTok revealed that the company is preparing for scrutiny over the treatment of its outsourced content moderators in Kenya. 

Kenyan Content Moderators  Sue Meta

Last month, a court in Kenya issued a landmark ruling against Meta, deeming the US tech giant the “true employer” of its outsourced content moderators.

Hundreds of content moderators in Nairobi go through posts and images to filter out violence, hate speech, and other disturbing content.

This ruling now allows Meta to be sued in Kenya for labor rights violations, despite the workers being employed by third-party contractors like Sama and Majorel.

The ruling against Meta came after the company asked the court to dismiss a case brought against it and its outsourcing partner, Sama, by South African moderator Daniel Motaung.

Motaung launched a legal case against the tech giant Sama and connected with hundreds of co-workers demanding better pay and working conditions from Facebook after several workers shared their stories of the PTSD-inducing content they have been exposed to.

He was fired by the corporation for trying to form a union in 2019 and decided to spill what happened behind the scenes.

He accuses Meta and Sama of abusing Kenyan labor law, including human trafficking and union busting.

If he wins the case, it will allow other large tech companies that outsource to Kenya to be held accountable for how staff are treated.

When Motaung’s lawsuit progressed in January, Meta attempted to cut ties with Sama and move its outsourcing operations to Majorel – TikTok’s partner.

This would have resulted in 260 Sama moderators losing their jobs.

However, in March of this year, a judge issued an injunction to prevent Meta from terminating its contract with Sama until the court determines whether the layoffs violated Kenyan labor laws.

Is TikTok next?

TikTok has been watching the case closely as it uses outsourced moderators in Kenya through a contract with Majorel.

According to Wired, internal documents revealed that the company is concerned it could be next in line for possible litigation.

“TikTok will likely face reputational and regulatory risks for its contractual arrangement with Majorel in Kenya,” the memo read.

“If the Kenyan courts rule in the moderators’ favor, TikTok and its competitors could face scrutiny for real or perceived labor rights violations.”

Last year, a report found that TikTok moderators spent hours reviewing graphic videos for less than $3 an hour. 

Including videos of horrific child abuse to explicit videos of people dying by suicide, leaving many moderators with psychological distress.

Cori Crider, Foxglove Legal’s director, said, “The fact that they are exploiting people is the reputational threat.”

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.