"Modern slavery": in Kenya, a former content moderator files a complaint against Facebook

The former employee of a Facebook subcontractor accuses the company of being unconcerned about the working conditions of its moderation teams.

A former content moderator for Facebook in Kenya filed a complaint on Tuesday against Meta, the parent company of the social network, which he accuses of exploitation, a new dispute for the global platform criticized by many NGOs.

The complaint describes “unworthy” working conditions, from deceptive hiring methods to irregular and insufficient remuneration, through the lack of psychological support, performance pressure and invasions of privacy and dignity, in violation of the Kenyan constitution.

Live decapitation

It was filed by Daniel Motaung, a South African who worked for Sama, a Meta contractor responsible for moderating content on Facebook for countries in East and Southern Africa, an essential activity for remove problematic content (violence, harassment, misinformation, etc.) from the platform.

“The first video I saw was a live beheading,” Motaung said Tuesday at a press conference organized by the Real Facebook oversight board, an anti-Facebook association.

“Imagine what it can do to a normal person, if then you watch other videos and images and similar content, every day,” continued the young man, who says he suffers from post-traumatic syndrome.

“We take our responsibility to people who review content for Meta seriously and require our partners to provide industry-leading salaries, benefits and support,” a spokesperson for Meta said. Meta, contacted by AFP.

“We encourage moderators to speak up about issues when they arise and we regularly conduct independent audits to ensure that our partners are performing to high standards, in line with our expectations,” he added.

According to Daniel Motaung and his lawyers, who say they represent 240 Sama content moderators in the Nairobi office, the contractor recruits employees without telling them specifically what their job will be, citing “administrative duties”.

The complaint assures that Sama chooses the candidates according to their modest origins on the pretext of lifting them out of poverty, and coming from different countries, so that they understand the different languages ​​spoken on the continent and therefore on Facebook.

Meta and Sama “recruit moderators through fraudulent and deceptive methods, an abuse of power, exploiting the vulnerability of young, poor and desperate candidates,” the lawyers claim in the court document.

“Many were hired and brought to Kenya before they understood the nature of their work. (…) They were therefore victims of human trafficking in a modern form of slavery prohibited by Article 30 of the Constitution”, they continue.

“They told us that they could easily replace us. They told us, we are doing you a favor. (…) Take what we give you and shut up,” said Daniel Motaung.

The complaint also details poor working conditions, not adapted to the difficulty and arduousness of the tasks, and the non-respect of the rights of employees, such as that of unionizing.

The lawyers specify that Sama hires “wellness coaches”, whose training is not sufficient for the needs of moderators in terms of mental health, and who do not offer a “confidential relationship” to employees.

Two years ago, Facebook has been condemned to pay $52 million to thousands of content moderators in the United States as compensation for job-related trauma.

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