Meta faces third lawsuit in Kenya as moderators claim illegal sacking, blacklisting
Social media giant Meta and its Kenya-based content moderation partners, Sama and Majorel, are facing a new lawsuit in Kenya. In a petition filed today, 43 content moderators allege “unlawful termination” by Sama, whose contract with Meta comes to an end this month after shutting down its content review arm in January. They are also contesting alleged discrimination by Meta’s new content moderation partner, Majorel, who they claim has blacklisted all of Sama’s previous employees.
In a petition filed before the employment and labour relations court, the moderators claim Sama dismissed them in an unlawful manner, claiming that no redundancy notices were issued. The suit also claims, among other issues, that the moderators were not issued with a 30-day termination notice as is required by Kenyan law, and that their terminal dues were hinged on their signing of non-disclosure documents.
Further claims include that Meta has instructed its new Luxembourg-based partner, Majorel, to blacklist content moderators that previously worked at Sama. It said moderators applying for jobs at Majorel were “denied on the basis that they previously worked at the 3rd Respondent’s (Sama) facility.”
Court documents seen by TechCrunch claim that some of the 260 affected Sama content moderators were sourced from countries across Africa, and will be required to leave Kenya if they can’t secure employment after March 31st, when their contracts with Sama end.
However, Sama said it had: "followed Kenyan law in every aspect and often gone above and beyond what is required. We communicated the decision to discontinue content moderation in a town hall, followed by an email and notification letter."
"We conducted a survey to collect questions and held multiple interactive consultative group sessions with employees to make this process and the compensation as clear as possible. No lawfully owed compensation is being withheld for any reason from any employee," it said in a statement.
Sama, whose long list of clientele includes OpenAI, dropped Meta’s contract and content review services to concentrate on labeling work (computer vision data annotation), following the heat from a 2022 lawsuit in Kenya by its former content moderator, Daniel Motaung.
Motuang, a South African, had accused Sama and Meta of forced labor and human trafficking, unfair labor relations, union busting and failure to provide “adequate” mental health and psychosocial support. He was allegedly laid off for organizing a 2019 strike and trying to unionize Sama’s employees.
“This is a union-busting operation masquerading as a mass redundancy. You can’t just switch suppliers and tell recruiters not to hire your workers because they are ‘troublemakers’ – that is, because they have the temerity to stand up for themselves,” said Cori Crider, a director of Foxglove, a tech justice nonprofit which is supporting the case.
The current suit is the third Meta is facing in Kenya, after another case was filed in December by Ethiopians over claims that the social media giant had failed to employ enough safety measures on Facebook, which, in turn, fueled the conflicts that have led to deaths, including the father of one of the petitioners, and 500,000 Ethiopians during the Tigray War that ended late last year.
The lawsuit claims the social site amplified hateful content and failed to hire enough personnel with an understanding of local languages to moderate content.
Updated to include a comment from Sama