UNDER PRESSURE              

Kenya: New legal woes for Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg

By Damien Glez

Posted on March 23, 2023 15:02

 © By Damien Glez
By Damien Glez

On 20 March, 43 former Facebook moderators announced that they would be filing a lawsuit against the social media giant’s parent company, Meta, primarily for “unlawful dismissal.”

The social networks created by Mark Zuckerberg are under pressure, facing criticism and economic imperatives, particularly in East Africa.

On the one hand, NGOs have accused Meta’s platforms – Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp – of inadequately moderating content containing violence, harassment, and misinformation.

On the other hand, the slowdown in online advertising is forcing the company to significantly reduce the staff of its moderation centres, as was the case in January in Nairobi, with the announcement of the dismissal of 260 content moderators from the outsourcing company Sama.

The overall objective is to reduce Meta’s workforce by nearly 25% in less than six months.

Legal proceedings

As a result of these ongoing pressures, legal proceedings have been taken, both by NGOs and the company itself.

Last December, a Kenyan NGO and two Ethiopian citizens filed a lawsuit in Kenya for lack of moderation, demanding the creation of a $1.6bn compensation fund for victims of online hate.

Today, 43 of the moderators who were laid off in January announced they would be suing the social media company and its subcontractors, again in Kenya. Their statement refers to “unlawful dismissals…from one day to the next” and even a “blacklisting of all laid-off workers.”

In Kenya last May, a former South African content moderator for Facebook filed a complaint claiming poor working conditions, vague job descriptions, deceptive hiring practices, ambiguous recruitment criteria, inadequate and irregular pay, weak social benefits, lack of psychological support, performance pressure, abuses of power (such as the violation of the right to unionise), and breaches of privacy and dignity.

Harassment, therefore, is not limited to online activities, and some plaintiffs are invoking a “modern form of slavery prohibited by Article 30 of the Kenyan Constitution.”

Two years earlier, Facebook was ordered to pay $52m to thousands of traumatised content moderators in the US.

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