In a landmark decision, a labour court in Kenya has ruled that Facebook can be sued in the East African country, after a former content moderator filed a lawsuit alleging poor working conditions. The lawsuit was filed by one person on behalf of a group, and it was also filed against Facebook’s local outsourcing company Sama. The ruling could have far-reaching implications for how Facebook works with content moderators globally, as the company relies on thousands of moderators around the world to review graphic content posted on its platform.
The lawsuit seeks financial compensation, an order that outsourced moderators have the same healthcare and pay scale as Facebook employees, that unionization rights be protected, and an independent human rights audit of the office. The ruling by Kenya’s employment and labour relations court is significant, as Facebook had argued that the Kenyan court had no jurisdiction because the company is not based in the African country and should thus be struck from the case.
However, Judge Jacob Gakeri stated in his ruling that “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.” The former content moderator, Daniel Motaung, claims that he developed PTSD as a result of his work and has sought financial compensation.
Facebook has faced similar lawsuits over content moderation before. In 2021, a California judge approved an $85 million settlement between the social media giant and over 10,000 content moderators who accused the company of failing to protect them from psychological injuries resulting from their exposure to graphic and violent imagery.
The labour court’s ruling in Kenya comes as Facebook is also facing another lawsuit in the country. In December, two Ethiopian researchers and a Kenyan rights group filed a suit, accusing the social media giant of letting violent and hateful posts from Ethiopia flourish on its platform, thereby inflaming the Ethiopian civil war. Facebook has stated that hate speech and incitement to violence are against the rules of both Facebook and Instagram and that the company is investing heavily to remove this type of content.
In light of the recent lawsuits, Facebook’s local outsourcing company, Sama, has announced that it will no longer provide content moderation services for the company. Sama has rejected claims that its employees were paid unfairly, that the recruitment process was opaque, or that its mental health benefits were inadequate. The labour court’s ruling in Kenya has far-reaching implications for the future of content moderation and how companies like Facebook work with their outsourced moderators.