In May 2022, ex-content moderator at Facebook Daniel Motaung filed a lawsuit against Facebook's parent company, Meta, over allegations of poor working conditions, including irregular pay and insufficient mental health support. This week a Kenyan court ruled that Motaung could sue the company despite attempting to have the case dropped.
Motaung is also suing the company he was previously contracted under, Samasource Ltd. Motaung claimed that he was forced to work long hours and was exposed to "gruesome content such as rape, torture, and beheadings." He told media outlets, "I have been diagnosed with severe PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). I am living ...a horror movie."
"I would see people walking off the production floor to cry, you know, that type of thing," he told the BBC.
Furthermore, Sama fired Motaung after trying to form a union in the company's Nairobi office.
Following Motaung's lawsuit filing, Meta attempted to drop the case as they disputed the court's jurisdiction as the company is based outside Kenya. However, the court ruled against the company stating that both Meta and Sama may be brought into the suit. Meta's spokesperson claimed that the company takes responsibility for their employees "seriously" and "require our partners to provide industry-leading pay and support. "The spokesperson further added that they conduct regular audits "to ensure our partners are meeting the high standards we expect." Sama refuted all claims of irregular pay and insufficient mental health support and called them "both disappointing and inaccurate."
Motaung claims he was paid about $2.20 per hour to review posts and that Meta doesn't hire enough content moderators to monitor posts accordingly. The lawsuit further accused the company of using algorithms that prioritise hateful content and that its response to African crises lags compared to international ones. The case also claimed that Sama often hired employees under false presence, like listing jobs under vague titles like call centre agents and agents when they'd be working as content moderators for Facebook.
More than 10,000 content moderators filed a similar lawsuit in California last year. They were granted $85 million after accusing Facebook of their lack of psychological protection from the jarring exposure to violent content.
Meta also has a previous case launched in Kenya's High Court in December 2022 that accused the company's algorithm of "fueling the viral spread of hate and violence during Ethiopia's civil war." Many Ethiopians, including Abrham Meareg, the son of an Ethiopian academic who was fatally shot following Facebook attacks and doxxing, want a $2bn fund for victims of hate on Facebook and changes to its algorithm.
"This is a significant step that ensures the authority of Kenyan courts to protect and enforce fundamental human rights … The social media platforms have serious impacts on people's lives and societies. They must be more accountable," said Amnesty International Kenya Executive Director Irungu Houghton.
Proceedings on the case will continue on March 8.