A former content moderator for Meta Platforms Inc, the owners of Facebook, has sued the international social media firm over alleged failure to cater for the mental wellbeing of the employees and poor working conditions.
Mr Daniel Motaung, in a suit filed at the Employment and Labours Court in Milimani, says he was sacked after questioning the working conditions of the employees based in the Nairobi office.
He has also sued Meta's local outsourcing agent Samasource Kenya EPZ Limited also known as Sama, a company registered in the United States.
Mr Motaung, a South African national, says the American social media giant firm acted negligently by failing to provide the moderators with adequate psychosocial support after exposing them to graphic content.
“Sama and Meta acted negligently by failing to provide adequate precautions for the safety, health and wellbeing of the Facebook Content Moderators and exposing them to risk, danger and injury of which they were aware,” he says.
Meta also owns WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.
The sacked worker has made 16 demands in the lawsuit, including damages for alleged violation of Constitutional rights and an order stopping Meta and Sama from interfering with content moderators’ rights to freedom of expression and right to join a trade union.
He also wants Meta and Sama to “cater for the cost of lifelong treatment for current and former content moderators engaged through Sama for any mental health problems that they may have developed as a result of being content moderators”.
“Content moderation at Facebook has been found to pose a risk to workers’ mental health. Because of their repeated exposure to gruesome content such as beheadings, torture and rape, a significant number of Facebook moderators contract post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD),” says the petitioner.
He explains: “The mental condition may involve among other problems insomnia, flashbacks, panic attacks, difficulty concentrating and difficulty forming human relationships. A serious patient of PTSD may struggle to continue in work.”
He also accuses the company of undertaking a deceptive recruitment process and misleading advertisements for the vacancy of a content moderator.
Trick unsuspecting applicants
“Between 2019 to date, Sama has issued various notices calling for applications for content moderators. It used the terms Call Centre Agents, Agent and Content Moderator to mean Facebook Content Moderator. The varying descriptions are deceptive and designed to trick unsuspecting applicants into unknowingly become Facebook content moderators,” he claims.
He says Sama engages approximately 240 Facebook Content Moderators in its Nairobi office.
They are recruited from around the region in Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda and elsewhere, reads the court papers.
The former worker claims that Meta and Sama have not taken adequate steps to guarantee the mental health and wellbeing of the moderators and to invest in programmes and interventions to prevent, mitigate and treat the harm and effects of their work.
He complains that the moderators lack hardship payments and are not employed directly by Meta. They are employed by the outsourcing companies such as Sama.
In the suit, he has listed 10 organisations and State offices as interested parties.
They include the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), Central Organization of Trade Unions (Cotu), the Attorney General, Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services, Export Processing Zone Authority, and the Ministry of Health.
Others are the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kenya Revenue Authority and Katiba Institute.