Meta, Facebook's parent company, is facing another lawsuit filed by one of is former content moderators. According to The Washington Post, this one is filed by Daniel Motaung, who's accusing the company and San Francisco subcontractor Sama of human trafficking Africans to work in exploitative and unsafe working conditions in Kenya. The lawsuit alleges that Sama targets poor people across the region, including those from Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda, with misleading job ads. They were reportedly never told that they'd be working as Facebook moderators and would have to view disturbing content as part of the job.
Motaung said the first video he watched was of someone being beheaded and that he was fired after six months on the job for trying to spearhead workers' unionization efforts. A Time report looking into the working conditions of the office where Motaung worked revealed that several employees suffered from mental trauma due to to their jobs. Sama, which positions itself as an "ethical AI" company providing "dignified digital work" to people in places like Nairobi, has on-site counselors. Workers generally distrusted the counselors, though, and Sama reportedly rejected counselors' advice to let workers take wellness breaks throughout the day anyway.
As for Motaung, he said in the lawsuit that his job was traumatizing and that he now has a fear of death. "I had potential. When I went to Kenya, I went to Kenya because I wanted to change my life. I wanted to change the life of my family. I came out a different person, a person who has been destroyed," he noted. The lawsuit also mentioned how Motaung was made to sign a non-disclosure agreement and how he was paid less than promised — 40,000 Kenyan shillings or around $350. The report by Time said employees left in droves due to the poor pay and working conditions.
Harrowing stories of Facebook moderators having to watch traumatizing videos and working in poor conditions aren't new and come from all over the world, including the US. In fact, the company agreed to pay its US content moderators part of a class action lawsuit $52 million back in 2020. Those who were diagnosed with psychological conditions related to their work got a payout of up to $50,000.
Meta's Nairobi office told The Post that it requires its "partners to provide industry-leading pay, benefits and support." It added: "We also encourage content reviewers to raise issues when they become aware of them and regularly conduct independent audits to ensure our partners are meeting the high standards we expect of them."