Meta and Sama face court in Kenya over alleged poor working conditions – TechCrunch

Meta and Sama, its main content moderation subcontractor in Africa, face a lawsuit in Kenya alleging unsafe and unfair working conditions if they fail to comply with 12 labor conditions claims submitted to them.

Nzili and Sumbi Advocates, the law firm representing Daniel Motaung, a former Sama employee who was fired for organizing a strike over poor working conditions and wages in 2019, issued a warning letter accusing TechCrunch of violating various rights, including the subcontractor the health and privacy of Kenyan and international employees.

Motaung was allegedly fired for organizing the strike and trying to unionize Sama employees. The law firm has given Meta and Sama 21 days (as of Tuesday, March 29) to respond to the claims or face a lawsuit.

In the letter of formal notice, the law firm called on Meta and Sama to comply with the country’s labor, privacy and health laws, to hire qualified and experienced health professionals, and to provide moderators with adequate mental health insurance and better compensation.

“Facebook outsources the bulk of this work to companies like Sama — a practice that keeps Facebook’s profit margins high, but at the expense of the health of thousands of moderators — and the safety of Facebook worldwide. Sama moderators are reporting ongoing violations, including conditions that are unsafe and degrading and pose a risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” Motuang’s attorneys said.

The upcoming lawsuit follows a Time story that details how Sama recruited the hosts under the false pretense that they were taking call center jobs. The content moderators, who were hired from across the continent, only learned about the nature of their work after signing their employment contracts and moving to their Nairobi center, according to the story.

Moderators sift through social media posts across all platforms, including Facebook, to remove those who perpetrate and perpetuate hate, misinformation and violence.

One of the many requirements that employees must comply with is not to disclose the nature of their work to outsiders. According to the article, content moderators in Africa earn the lowest wages in the world. Sama presents itself as an ethical AI company. According to the exposé, the company recently increased the salaries of its employees.

The law firm alleged that Sama failed to provide Motaung and his colleague with appropriate psychosocial support and mental health interventions, including “unplanned breaks as needed, particularly after exposure to graphic content.” Sama employee productivity was also tracked using Meta’s software to measure employee screen time and movement during work hours. Sama granted them “thirty minutes a day with a wellness consultant.”

“Sama and Meta failed to prepare our client for the type of work he was supposed to be doing and the implications. The first video he remembers hosting was about a beheading. Until then, no psychological support had been offered to him in advance,” the law firm said.

Mercy Mutemi, who is leading the court case, said: “I use Facebook, like many Kenyans, and it’s an important place to discuss news. But that is precisely why this case is so important.”

“The security and integrity of our democratic process in Kenya depends on a Facebook properly staffed and where content moderators, the frontline workers against hate and misinformation, have the support they need to keep us all safe. This is no ordinary industrial action – the working conditions for Facebook moderators affect all Kenyans.”

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