Meta, outsourcing partner facing lawsuit alleging human trafficking, union busting in Kenya

While Sama has denied all allegations, Meta has asked that its name be dropped from the lawsuit entirely, since they had outsourced the work to Sama and were thus not directly liable.

Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver, BC

A lawsuit has been filed against Facebook parent company Meta and an outsourcing partner in Nairobi, Kenya alleging that the companies engaged in human trafficking and union busting within the country.

On May 10, Daniel Motaung filed the lawsuit in Nairobi which accuses Meta and outsourcing company Sama of violating the Kenyan constitution.

Motaung alleges that Sama, and by extension Meta, treated their employees poorly, quashed any attempts to form unions, and even sent out misleading job postings to attract workers from across Africa.

According to Time Magazine, Motaung is being represented by London-based legal NGO Foxglove, as well as Kenyan law firm Nzili and Sumbi Advocates.

The lawsuit not only seeks compensation for the things Motaung endured while he was employed by Sama, but also seeks reforms to Meta's content moderation practices.

"Any reform we win here, Facebook can afford to roll out everywhere, and we’ll be pushing to make that happen," Foxglove director Cori Crider said. "It's past time for Facebook to treat these people with dignity and respect."

As Time reports, the lawsuit alleges "wage theft, racial discrimination, psychological torture, unequal pay for equal work, and negligence by failing to provide adequate psychosocial support," but the most serious allegation is one of human trafficking.

Motaung and his lawyers argue that misleading job ads that brought people to Nairobi from across Africa on false pretenses amount to human trafficking. Sama recently announced that they had worked to make their ads more transparent, so potential employees knew the types of content they'd have to watch.

"These misleading ads were targeted deliberately at Kenyans and Africans from disadvantaged backgrounds who, after being tricked into a job they had not realized they had applied for, were trapped in a dangerous job without a safety net," Motaung’s lawyers said in a statement.

While Sama has denied all allegations, Meta has asked that its name be dropped from the lawsuit entirely, since they had outsourced the work to Sama and were thus not directly liable.

Motaung's lawyers have not budged, and will reportedly argue that Meta is, in fact, responsible as well.

A Time investigation in February first brought to light the working conditions of Facebook content moderators working in Sama's Nairobi office.

Time discovered that employees were being paid as little as $1.50 per hour to sift through disturbing content, including videos depicting suicide, sexual assault, and murder. One employee summed the experience up as "a kind of mental torture." It was reported that many had been forced to quit after developing PTSD.

An American corporation with offices around the world, Sama describes itself as an "ethical AI" company.

The company fired Motaung in 2019 after he led a group of more than 100 of his colleagues in an attempt to unionize for better pay and working conditions.

In his dismissal letter, the company said that his actions put Sama’s relationship with Facebook "at great risk."

Sama told Time that Motaung had been fired for the reasons of bullying and coercing his colleagues.


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