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Kenyan Court Holds Meta Accountable for Moderator Dismissals

In a major legal upset, a Kenyan court declares Meta as the primary employer of 184 content moderators, stalling the company's efforts to disengage from allegations of wrongful termination.

In a significant ruling, Meta, the technology conglomerate, has been recognized by a Kenyan court as the primary employer of 184 content moderators, disrupting the company's attempts to distance itself from allegations of unlawful dismissals. The moderators, who brought the lawsuit in March, also claimed that Meta and its new content review collaborator, Majorel, unfairly blacklisted them.

Kenya's Justice Byram Ongaya concluded that the social media titan cannot withdraw from the lawsuit, noting that the moderators utilized Meta's technology, adhered to its performance metrics, and essentially performed work for the company. While the court stated Sama functioned as an "agent or manager," Sama countered, claiming it lacked legal authority to act on Meta's behalf.

This verdict serves as a setback for Meta, who has consistently asserted that it is not the employer of the moderators.

According to the court, the responsibility to provide digital workspace for content moderation lies with Meta, who also established the operational standards and compensated the moderators via Sama, the agent. The court refused to absolve Meta of its role as the primary employer of the content moderators.

The court also ordered that the moderators' contracts be extended, prohibiting Meta and Sama from terminating them until the case is resolved. The court deemed the redundancies unjustifiable and confirmed the availability of content moderation work.

The lawsuit alleges that Sama unlawfully terminated the moderators, who hail from countries across Africa, without issuing redundancy notices in accordance with Kenyan law. It further claims that the moderators did not receive a 30-day termination notice and their severance pay was contingent on signing non-disclosure agreements.

Sama, which has clients like OpenAI, decided to drop Meta's contract and focus on computer vision data annotation. The company maintains that it complied with Kenyan law and communicated its decision to halt content moderation at a town hall and through email and notification letters.

Meta and Sama are currently grappling with two additional lawsuits in Kenya, including allegations of labor and human trafficking, union busting, and inadequate mental health support. Another lawsuit accuses Meta of insufficient safety measures on Facebook, leading to violent conflicts and subsequent fatalities in the Tigray War.