Whistleblower Daniel Motaung sues Facebook & its agent, Sama, for human trafficking, forced labour and human rights abuses. More than 10 government and NGOs are included in the petition as interested parties in the lawsuit.
Daniel Motaung, in an interview, alleged deplorable working conditions and various human rights violations while working for Sama, an agent of Facebook (Meta). He was fired after speaking out.
Nzili & Sumbi Advocates is representing Facebook whistle blower and former content moderator, Daniel Motaung. They have filed a Constitutional Petition at the Labour Court today, launching a lawsuit against Meta Platforms, Inc. (Meta), the company that owns Facebook, its subsidiary, Meta Platforms Ireland Limited and its agent in Kenya, Samasource Kenya EPZ Limited (Sama).
The petition includes numerous counts of contraventions of the constitutional and human rights of workers and accuses Meta and Sama. It also includes multiple labour violations including human trafficking and forced labour. It also seeks 16 separate counts of relief on the Daniel’s behalf.
Daniel represents all current and former workers at Facebook’s main content moderation hub in Africa based in Nairobi which covers the Eastern and Southern Africa regions. Sama, the 1st respondent in the lawsuit, is accused of recruiting young and vulnerable youth from Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Africa, and Nambia under false pretences. They are also accused of failing to disclose to them that that they are intended to work as Facebook Content Moderators. Mr. Motaung, the petitioner in the case, seeks collective compensation and reparation for damages for more than 240 personnel. Further, the South African national wants the Kenyan Court to order Facebook and Sama to reform dangerous and degrading working conditions, return unlawfully withheld wages to its employees, and allow them to form a union.
The lawsuit calls upon Kenya’s government to take a closer look at the labour and migration practices of Facebook and its outsourcing companies. This will set a precedent for other multinational companies operating in Kenya. It also seeks to compel the Labour Court to end a culture of exploitation that has a lasting impact on young African workers.
“When I first applied to the advert for this job, I was straight out of university and on a mission to lift myself and my family out of poverty,” Mr. Motaung claims, adding that his physical and mental health had been adversely affected by the violence he witnessed as Facebook Content Moderator for only six months.
Mr. Motaung recalls moderating was a livestream of a person being beheaded; the court will hear. Lead counsel Mercy Mutemi said, “Content moderators struggle every day to make Facebook safer for 10 million Kenyan users and many more Africans. With the Kenyan elections now so close, there has never been a more important time to force Mark Zuckerberg to take responsibility for the people on the frontline of the information battle during the contest”.
Mr. Motaung claims that Meta and Sama broke Kenyan law by targeting him and his colleagues with threats, intimidation and eventually termination for forming a union they named The Alliance. The content moderators had hoped to use the union to lobby for better working conditions, demand fair, regular and full wages and a more substantial health cover.
The lawsuit seeks the following from the court;
- Order that Facebook Content Moderators engaged through Samasource Kenya EPZ Limited be considered direct employees of Meta Platforms, Inc. and Meta Platforms Ireland Limited.
- An independent human rights and psychological health audit at the Nairobi hub to report to the court, within 30 days, recommendations on how to create a safer work environment for content moderators.
- Order of permanent injunction restraining the respondents from interfering with content moderators’ rights to freedom of expression, their right to freedom of association and their right to form, join and participate in a trade union. Additionally, an order to each respondent to prominently exhibit in the 1st respondent’s Nairobi office, and on Facebook’s intranet Workplace, a notice affirming that Facebook content moderators have the right to speak out about working conditions and to form a union, and that neither Facebook nor any outsourcer will interfere with these rights.
- Financial penalties to each former and existing content moderator employed in Kenya for the violation of their constitutional rights and to cater for lifetime treatment for any mental health problems that may have developed as a result of being content moderators.
- Order Sama to account for and pay back all unlawful deductions made from its employees’ salaries and that all current and former employees be provided with their payslips from date the date of employment to the date of termination of employment or to date.
Nzili & Sumbi Advocates are calling on all former and current Facebook Content Moderators recruited by Sama to work at the Nairobi hub to reach out directly to the lead counsel, Mercy Mutemi, on email at firstname.lastname@example.org.