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Meta to appeal court ruling declaring content moderators as its employees

Meta is set to appeal Kenya’s court decision declaring it as the primary employer of the moderators that review content on its platforms in sub-Saharan Africa.

Meta has filed a notice of appeal against the ruling made last week on orders issued in March. This comes after 184 moderators sued it, and its content review partner in sub-Saharan Africa, Sama, for alleged unlawful termination of contracts. The moderators also claim that Majorel, the social media giant’s new moderation partner in the region, blacklisted them under instruction from Meta.

The Employment and Labor Relations Court in the ruling made last Friday ruled that Meta was the primary and principal employer of the moderators, and that Sama was “merely an agent…” outsourced to oversee the work.

In the ruling, the court said the services offered by the moderators pertained to Meta, and was done using its technology, while adhering to its performance and accuracy metrics. The court directed that moderators’ contracts be extended saying it had “found that the job of content moderation is available” and that “the applicants will continue working upon the prevailing or better terms in the interim.”

The court also barred Meta and Sama from laying off moderators, awaiting the final determination of the case, adding that there was no suitable justification for the redundancies.

Meta, in documents filed before the court and seen by TechCrunch, said the court had erred by extending contracts that had expired, and also faulted it for “re-writing contracts of employment” between the moderators and Sama, by “imposing terms and obligations” on Meta yet they were not aware of the details of the contract of employment between the two.

An affidavit by Joanne Redmond, Meta’s EMEA director and associate general counsel for labour and employment, dated June 7, also said that the moderators were not the social media giant’s employees but Sama’s, adding that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case too.

Meta also claims, amongst others, that the court had erred by ordering it to regularize the immigration status of moderators, and requiring it to provide them with medical care.

The court ordered Meta, and Sama to provide medical, psychiatric and psychological care to moderators in place of ‘wellness counseling’, saying evidence showed that the work of moderators was “inherently hazardous.”

The moderators sift through social media posts on Meta’s platforms including Facebook to remove content that is inciteful or spreads hate, misinformation and violence.

Sama laid off 260 moderators after dropping Meta’s contract and content review services to concentrate on labeling work (computer vision data annotation).

In the suit, the moderators allege that Sama fired them illegally after failing to issue them with redundancy notices as required by Kenyan law. The suit also claims, among other issues, that the moderators were not issued with a 30-day termination notice, and that their terminal dues were pegged on their signing of non-disclosure documents.

Sama, in the past, told TechCrunch it observed the Kenyan law, and communicated the decision to discontinue content moderation in a town hall, and through email and notification letters.

They also alleged that Majorel denied them job opportunities on the basis that they previously worked at Sama. The new moderation partner was ordered to stop the bias by the court.

This is the third suit Meta is facing in Kenya, after Daniel Motaung, a South African, sued the company last year claiming labor and human trafficking, unfair labor relations, union busting and failure to provide “adequate” mental health and psychosocial support. Motaung alleges he was laid off for organizing a 2019 strike and trying to unionize Sama’s employees.

Ethiopians have also sued Meta over claims that the social media giant failed to employ enough safety measures on Facebook, which, in turn, fueled the conflicts that led to deaths, including the father of one of the petitioners, and 500,000 Ethiopians during the Tigray War.

Meta to appeal court ruling declaring content moderators as its employees by Annie Njanja originally published on TechCrunch

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