Kenyan court declares Meta as the primary employer in its lawsuit

In this post:

  • A Kenyan court has ruled that Meta is the primary employer in a lawsuit.
  • Analysts discuss the implications of the case on Meta and Sama.

A recent ruling by a Kenyan court has declared that Meta, the parent company of Facebook, is the primary employer of content moderators involved in a lawsuit against the social media giant and its content review partner in Africa, Sama. The lawsuit, filed in March of this year by 184 moderators, alleged unlawful dismissal and claimed that Meta’s new content review partner on the continent, Majorel, had blacklisted them based on Meta’s instruction.

The Kenyan court said the moderators were contracted to Meta

Justice Byram Ongaya of Kenya’s employment and labor relations court watered down Meta’s attempt to distance itself from the case. The court determined that the moderators performed work for Meta using its technology, adhered to its performance and accuracy metrics and that Sama was merely an agent or manager acting on behalf of Meta. Sama, on the other hand, disputed this claim, stating that it is a client of Sama’s and not empowered to act on behalf of Meta.

The court’s ruling comes as a blow to Meta, which has been seeking to disassociate itself from the lawsuit by denying its status as the moderators’ employer. The court emphasized that Meta and its partner, Sama, hold the responsibility for providing the digital workspace, imposing operational requirements, setting performance standards, and providing remuneration to the moderators. It concluded that no arrangement absolved Meta from its role as the primary and principal employer of the content moderators.

As a result, the court extended the moderators’ contracts and prohibited Meta and Sama from laying them off while the case is ongoing. The court found no justifiable reason for the redundancies and stated that the job of content moderation remains available. The moderators will continue working under prevailing or better terms during this interim period.

Analysts discuss the potential impact on Meta and Sama

Content moderators from various African countries, including Ethiopia, Uganda, Somalia, and South Africa, are responsible for sifting through social media posts on Meta’s platforms to identify and remove content promoting hate, misinformation, and violence.

The moderators allege that Sama illegally terminated their employment without providing redundancy notices as required by Kenyan law. The lawsuit also raises concerns about the lack of a 30-day termination notice and the connection between their terminal dues and the signing of non-disclosure documents.

In addition to this lawsuit, Meta and Sama are facing two other legal challenges in Kenya. One lawsuit, filed by Daniel Motaung from South Africa, accuses the companies of labor and human trafficking, unfair labor relations, union busting, and inadequate mental health and psychosocial support. Another lawsuit, brought by Ethiopians in December of the previous year, claims that Meta failed to implement sufficient safety measures on Facebook, contributing to conflicts and casualties, including the death of a petitioner’s father and 500,000 Ethiopians during the Tigray War.

The court’s ruling against Meta establishes the company’s accountability as the primary employer of content moderators involved in the lawsuit. This decision will likely have broader implications for the relationship between social media platforms and the individuals responsible for moderating their content in Africa and beyond.

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