Meta blocked from firing content moderators


The logos of Facebook social network and its parent company Meta. A ourt has told Meta to put redundancies by its former agent Samasource Kenya on hold until case by content moderators is determined.

Photo credit: File | AFP

More than 180 Facebook content moderators on Friday June 2 won a reprieve after a judge blocked Meta from terminating their jobs, pending the determination of a petition they have filed.

Employment and Labour Relations court judge Byram Ongaya directed Meta to put on hold redundancies announced by its former agent Samasource Kenya EPZ Ltd (Sama), until the case is determined.

The content moderators rushed to court in March after they were served with redundancy notices by Sama after the agent allegedly parted ways with Meta, the Facebook parent company.

But in a ruling on Friday, Justice Ongaya ruled that Meta Platforms Inc. and Meta Platforms Ireland Ltd are the primary employers of the content moderators operating from Nairobi.

The judge said the redundancy notices were unlawful because the work of content moderation is issued by Meta.

The court said the contracts of the moderators should be extended until the case is concluded.

“The respondents are hereby restrained from terminating the contract of the content moderators, pending the hearing and determination of the petition. The respondents are also restrained from varying the content moderators’ contractual terms in a manner unfavourable to the applicants,” the judge said.

The employees initially worked for Samasource Kenya EPZ (Sama), which was contracted by Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc and Meta Platforms Ireland Limited, to work in Kenya as moderators.

The content moderators initially worked for Sama but they claimed Meta terminated the contract and was planning to hire new people through Majorel Kenya Ltd.

The employees are from various countries in Africa and were engaged at the Content Moderation Centre in Nairobi, which serves the larger Eastern and Southern African Region.

They further revealed that considering the variety of language spoken in the region, moderations are drawn from different regions to moderate posts that are in various local language.

Meta had opposed the case arguing that there is no contract of employment between the Facebook owner and the content moderators.

In a further win for the content moderators, the judge said that from the material on record, the work they perform is inherently hazardous.

The judge, therefore, directed Meta to ensure that medical, psychiatric and psychological care for the content moderators is put in place.

He also directed the government agencies to review the status of the law and employees’ safety in virtual and digital workspaces, note areas for improvement and make a report to the court regarding the extent of improvement to ensure workers in such spaces are protected.

Justice Ongaya also directed the government to regularise immigration status of immigrants so that they can continue working in the country.

The 183 petitioners want the court to declare the termination unlawful and order their reinstatement.

They are also seeking compensation for unfair termination of employment equivalent to twelve months gross salary, damages amounting to Sh10 million per moderator for unfair labour practices and a further Sh20 million each, for violation of their rights.

Meta indicated that it will appeal against the ruling.

Sama has in the past 15 years employed over 13,000 individuals. The firm said it has been providing meaningful, dignified, living wage as the best way to permanently lift people out of poverty. 

“Our business model has always been designed to meaningfully improve employment and income for those with the greatest barriers to it via training, benefits, and work. We are a longstanding and trusted employer in East Africa, helping to lift more than 59,000 individuals out of poverty,” the company said.