Kenyan Facebook moderators accuse Meta of not negotiating sincerely

The lawyer representing 184 former Facebook content moderators based in Kenya who sued the site’s parent company Meta over working conditions and pay has told a judge that Meta has not been sincere in trying to reach an out-of-court settlement as agreed in the last court session.

Mercy Mutemi said the talks had collapsed and the former moderators want to proceed with a contempt of court case against Meta, which she described as “not genuine”.

She told the court: “The petitioners gave it their best effort. They attended every mediation. The respondents asked for information which we gave them.

“They kept saying they would get back to us by a certain date but only got back to us at the end of last week with a very small amount that cannot even take care of the petitioners’ mental health.”

The moderators were employed through Sama, a San Francisco subcontractor which describes itself as an ethical AI company, to work in its hub in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Their job entailed screening user content in 12 African languages and removing any uploads deemed to breach Facebook’s community standards and terms of service.

Some of the petitioners have told the Associated Press that their job required them to watch horrific content for eight hours a day while being paid 60,000 Kenyan shillings (£330) a month.

They accused Sama of doing little to ensure post-traumatic professional counselling was offered, and are seeking 1.6 billion dollars (£1.3 billion) in compensation.

Meta and Sama lawyers told the court they thought the mediation was making good progress, with long hours involved, until the moderators’ lawyer wrote to them in protest.

Justice Nduma Nderi said the failed talks were a “missed opportunity” to find a balance between the parties involved instead of the court issuing an order.

The parties will appear at a hearing on October 31 on the moderators’ application to find Meta and Sama in contempt of court.

The lawsuit is the first known court challenge of its kind against Facebook outside the US. In 2020, Facebook agreed to pay 52 million dollars to US content moderators who filed a class action lawsuit after they were repeatedly exposed to beheadings, child and sexual abuse, animal cruelty, terrorism and other disturbing content.

Facebook and Sama have defended their employment practices.


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