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Kenya: Meta and Content Moderators to Negotiate Out-Of-Court Settlement

Two mediators have been appointed to find an out-of-court settlement to the dispute between Meta and 184 content moderators for Facebook in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, according to a document consulted by AFP on Wednesday.

These employees of Sama, a Meta subcontractor responsible for removing violent and hateful publications from Facebook, filed a complaint in March against their employer and Meta as the principal.

They claim to have been unfairly dismissed by Sama, which has announced the end of its content moderation business. They are also seeking compensation for their salaries, which are “insufficient (for) the risk to which they were exposed”, and for the “damage caused to their mental health”.

They also denounce discrimination by Meta and Majorel, the successor company to Sama, claiming that those of them who applied to work at Majorel had their applications blocked.

Their dismissals had been suspended on June 2 by the Nairobi Employment and Labour Relations Tribunal, pending a ruling on the merits.

In an agreement consulted by AFP, the parties agreed to negotiate to “reach an amicable settlement (…) through mediation”, to be held “within 21 days” from August 23.

This process will be led by former Kenyan Supreme Court Chief Justice (2011-2016) Willy Mutunga and a representative of the Ministry of Labor, Hellen Apiyo.

“If the parties fail to reach an amicable agreement within the allotted time, the case will be referred to the Employment and Labour Relations Tribunal,” the text adds.

In this case, Meta’s lawyers argued that the American group – which also owns Whatsapp and Instagram – could not be judged in Kenya, where it has no business and is not a direct employer.

The court rejected this argument. It ordered Meta and Sama to “provide appropriate psychological and medical care to the plaintiffs”, most of whom claim to be suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Meta is the target of two other complaints in the Kenyan capital.

A former South African employee of Sama, Daniel Motaung, lodged a complaint in Nairobi in May 2022 against Meta and Sama, alleging “unworthy” working conditions, deceptive hiring methods, irregular and inadequate remuneration and lack of psychological support.

The case has not yet gone to trial.

In another case, a Kenyan NGO and two Ethiopian citizens are accusing the platform of inaction in the face of online hate speech in Africa, which they claim led to the murder of a university professor in Ethiopia.

AFP is a Meta partner, providing fact-checking services in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa.