Daniel Motaung’s petition “calls on Kenyan courts to order Facebook and its outsourcing companies to end operations at its moderation hub in Nairobi, where content moderators work in dangerous conditions,” said a statement from Foxglove, a London-based legal expert. non-profit organization that supports Facebook content moderators. †
The first video Motaung watched as a Facebook moderator was a video of someone being beheaded, he told reporters on a phone call on Tuesday. He stayed on the job for about six months, having moved from South Africa to Nairobi for work in 2019. Motaung says he was fired after trying to lead unions at the facility.
Motaung said his job was traumatic and he is now terrified.
“I had potential,” Motaung said. “When I went to Kenya, I went to Kenya because I wanted to change my life. I wanted to change my family’s life. I came out as a different person, a person who has been destroyed.”
Motaung says in his file that when he arrived in Kenya for that job, he was told to sign a nondisclosure agreement and that his salary was less than promised, with a monthly salary of 40,000 Kenyan shillings, or about $350 US dollars.
The lawsuit notes that Sama is targeting people from poor families in Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda and other countries in the region with “misleading job opportunities” that don’t reveal they will work as Facebook content moderators or viewing disturbing content that exposes them to mental health problems.
Candidates are being recruited “through deception,” said Mercy Mutemi, who filed the petition with the court on Tuesday morning. “We found that many Africans were forced into forced labor and human trafficking. If you leave your country for a job you did not apply for, it amounts to human trafficking.”
Content moderators are not getting enough medical coverage to seek mental health treatment, the filing claims.
The lawsuit also calls for orders for Facebook and Sama to respect moderators’ right to join a union.
Meta’s Nairobi office said it takes its responsibility seriously to people who review content for the company and requires its “partners to provide industry-leading rewards, benefits and support,” a statement from the company’s spokeswoman said.
“We also encourage content reviewers to raise issues when they become aware of them and conduct regular independent audits to ensure our partners meet the high standards we expect of them,” the statement said.
In 2020, Facebook agreed to pay $52 million to US content moderators who filed a class action lawsuit after being repeatedly exposed to beheadings, child and sexual abuse, animal cruelty, terrorism and other disturbing content.
Sama, which describes itself as an ethical AI company, did not immediately comment.
Sama’s Nairobi location is the largest content moderation facility in Africa, with approximately 240 employees working on it, according to the filing.
“We are not animals,” Motaung said in the statement. “We are people – and we deserve to be treated as such.”
Seitz reported from Washington.