- Facebook accused of unlawful termination of Kenyan content moderators
- Kenyan Labour Court rules Facebook parent company Meta has a case to answer
- Facebook and Meta’s unlawful termination case follows initial hazardous working conditions lawsuit
Facebook parent company Meta has a case to answer in an unlawful termination lawsuit, a Kenyan Labour Court has ruled.
The lawsuit comes against a backdrop of negative headlines in East Africa ranging from not censoring hate messages in Ethiopia to unlawful termination and hazardous working conditions in Kenya.
The Employment and Labour Relations court in Nairobi stopped the social media giant from ending a contract with a third party that hires hundreds of workers that work in the content moderation division.
At the start of the year, some 260 Kenyans hired as Facebook content moderators in Nairobi were issued termination letters that they claim are without just cause and unlawful. 43 of them moved to court and sued Facebook’s parent company, Meta, and two other agencies contracted by Facebook including Sama.
In their lawsuit with the Labour Court of Kenya, the disgruntled employees describe their termination letters as “varying and confusing”.
As expected, the giant data company Meta initially attempted to have the case thrown out claiming Kenyan courts have no jurisdiction over it but, the court sees it differently and has ruled that Meta does in fact have a case to answer in the unlawful termination and exploitative working conditions lawsuit filed against it.
Local media quoted Kenyan Labour Court Judge Jacob Gakeri saying “Since the petition has raised certain actual issues that are yet to be determined, it would be inopportune for the country to strike out the two respondents from the matter.”
Meta and the outsourcing companies, Sama and Majorel, have until the week’s end to respond to the application ahead of the scheduled case hearing on March 28, 2023.
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Majorel was enjoined in the suit after Meta contracted it as its new content moderator partner. The agency then sent termination letters to the moderators. The court has ordered Majorel not to hire new content moderators in place of the allegedly illegally fired ones.
This most recent legal squabble bares a long dirty trail dating as far back as early 2022. At that time, the case brought forward was not over unlawful termination but rather poor, hazardous working conditions. It remains unclear as to whether that original case has any relation to the most recent lawsuit against the attempted firing of the hundreds of Facebook content moderators in Nairobi.
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Daniel Motaung, a Kenyan Facebook moderator filed a lawsuit for allegedly being exposed to abusive content that affected his mental health.
The plaintiff alleged that he was exposed to content such as rape, torture and beheadings but was offered no mental health support to cope with the content that he was been exposed to.
The disgruntled employee who was the first to take Facebook and Meta to court, accused the social media giant of allegedly ‘forcing’ them to work long hours for alleged minimal pay.
It is this newly hired outsourcing company that has taken the wheel in Kenya and made the firing of hundreds of workers their first priority.
Kenya is not the only East African country to take Facebook and Meta to Court. At the end of last year, at least two Ethiopians filed a lawsuit against Meta accusing Facebook of allegedly promoting what they described as hate speech.
The plaintiffs allege that the hate speech was promoted on Facebook during the course of the Ethiopian conflict in Tigray.
The plaintiffs are two Ethiopian researchers who filed the lawsuit in Kenya along with a Kenyan rights group called Katiba Institute.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege that not only did Meta not moderate violent posts during the course of the conflict, but it allegedly amplified them.
At least one of the plaintiffs in that lawsuit claimed to be a direct victim of the violence because “…these posts preceded the murder of a plaintiff’s father,” local media quoted the court filing.
The plaintiffs went a step further and accused Meta of slow response to crises in Africa compared to elsewhere in the world.