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Moderators in Africa win victory over Meta, as layoffs temporarily blocked

Moderators worked for a third-party contractors and alleged unlawful conditions.

 

Jacob Seitz

Tech

Posted on Mar 21, 2023

A judge temporarily blocked 260 content moderators in Kenya from being laid off by Meta on Tuesday after the moderators sued the company over alleged discrimination, unlawful termination, and worker’s rights violations.

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The lawsuit, which was filed by content moderators who worked for the company Sama last week, alleges that Meta and Sama started laying people off for unjustifiable reasons after a similar case was filed against Meta in May of last year. The lawsuit alleges that the 260 moderators for Eastern and Southern Africa—who were all laid off when Meta ended their contract with Sama in January—faced a hostile work environment after the 2022 lawsuit was filed.

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The 43 employees that filed the lawsuit allege that they were laid off for attempting to form a union and were blacklisted from applying to similar positions at Majorel, the firm Meta hired after Sama. 

According to the lawsuit, many moderators were forced to look at content so traumatic that they developed Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and anxiety. Others reported suffering from hallucinations, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts. Reportedly, some moderators were forced to watch their own relatives die on the platform. Moderators said they were not informed of the risks and graphic content they would be viewing.

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The lawsuit also alleges fluctuations in hourly pay from month-to-month, with some payments being sent to workers from an HR manager’s personal account.

Moderators said they earn about $2.20 per hour of work on average. Moderators also allege that Sama held their passports for months without cause under the guise of securing immigration status for immigrant workers and failing to inform moderators about their work permit status. Moderators said they were working without work permits or alien cards, a situation that they say often put them in trouble with Kenyan authorities.

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The case could have massive implications for Meta, which employs thousands of moderators globally to review and take down content posted on its platform. Last month, Meta challenged a separate lawsuit brought by a moderator over poor working conditions and said that it could not be sued because it has no official presence in the country.

Over the past year, Meta has laid off over 20,000 employees worldwide.

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*First Published: Mar 21, 2023, 4:06 pm CDT
 
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