Meta barred by Kenyan court from engaging its new content moderation partner

Meta has been temporarily barred by a Kenyan court from engaging its new content moderation subcontractor, Majorel, pending the hearing of a new case, filed by 43 content moderators yesterday over illegal sacking and blacklisting.

The interim injunction has also barred Sama, Meta’s outgoing content moderation partner, from effecting any form of redundancy. The hearing of the emergency application is set for March 28, in the meantime, Sama will exclusively offer content review services to Meta.

“….an interim injunction order be and is hereby granted restraining the 1st and 2nd respondents (Meta Platforms Inc and Meta Ireland) from engaging content moderators to serve the Eastern and Southern African region through the 4th respondent (Majorel) or through any other agent, partner or representative or in any manner whatsoever engaging moderators to do the work currently being done by the moderators engaged through the 3rd respondent (Sama) pending the hearing of this application,” the court said.

The court’s decision comes as Sama plans to lay-off 260 content moderators, that served the Eastern and Southern Africa, at the end of this month after shutting down its content review arm in January. The moderators are alleging “unlawful termination” by Sama, and discrimination by Majorel, who they claim has blacklisted all of Sama’s previous employees. The petition claims that moderators applying for jobs at Majorel were “denied on the basis that they previously worked at the 3rd Respondent’s (Sama) facility.”

The law court also prohibited Meta and Majorel from blacklisting qualified content moderators on the grounds that they previously worked at Sama.

The moderators claim, in the petition before the employment and labour relations court, that Sama failed to issue 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 says it observed the Kenyan law, and communicated the decision to discontinue content moderation in a town hall, and through email and notification letters.

Trouble for Sama began after an ex-employee sued it alongside Meta on claims of union-busting, lifting the lid on the working conditions that moderators go through to make social sites like Facebook less toxic.