A Kenyan court has today upheld interim orders issued last week temporarily barring Meta from engaging its new content moderation subcontractor, Majorel, pending determination if the social media giant can be sued in the East African country.
This is not the first time that Meta is claiming to be a foreign company that Kenyan courts have no jurisdiction over. However, the first attempt flopped and it is appealing the ruling, which allowed Daniel Motaung, an ex-Sama content moderator, to sue Meta and Sama for exploitation and union busting.
In the current and third case it is facing in Kenya, Meta is being sued alongside Majorel and Sama, the social giant’s outgoing moderation partner in Eastern and Southern Africa, for illegal dismissal and blacklisting.
Sama’s plan to lay off more than 200, and wind down content review arm stopped
This latest development has stopped Sama’s plans to wind down its content review arm, and lay off over 200 content moderators at the end of this month.
The temporary orders were issued last week, and extended by Kenya’s employment and labor relations court today, after 43 moderators made an emergency application claiming illegal firing by Sama. The moderators also claimed that Meta instructed its new Luxembourg-based partner, Majorel, to blacklist ex-Sama content moderators.
The moderators, in the petition, claimed 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 meeting, and through email and notification letters.
Sama is set to continue offering content review services to Meta but it is not clear if the company will have enough manpower to play its role after Friday.
Sama’s lawyer said in court that 140 foreigners are among those affected by the planned lay offs, and will require work permits to continue working in the country.
“The uncertainty created by this new directive means the majority of the impacted employees are now being held in limbo, unsure of what to do about practical issues like accommodation arrangements post March 31, expiring work permits, plans to travel to their home country, and transferring their children to new schools,” Sama’s VP of global service delivery, Annepeace Alwala, told TechCrunch last week after the orders were issued.
Meta is facing another case, filed in December by Ethiopians, over claims that the social media giant failed to employ enough safety measures on Facebook to stop the conflicts that led to deaths, including the father of one of the petitioners, and 500,000 Ethiopians during the Tigray War that ended late last year.