A Kenyan court has rejected Meta Platforms Inc’s and Meta Platforms Ireland Ltd’s application to have a lawsuit against them thrown out. The social media giant and its content review partners, Sama and Majorel, have been sued by 183 content moderators in Kenya who claim they were unlawfully sacked and blacklisted after Sama wound down its content review arm. The moderators accuse Meta of instructing Majorel to blacklist ex-Sama content moderators.
Meta had argued that the case should be nullified because they are foreign companies and that Kenyan courts lack the jurisdiction to hear and determine petitions against them. However, the court rejected this argument, saying it has the jurisdiction to determine the matter of alleged unlawful and unfair termination of employment, and to enforce alleged violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms by Meta, Sama, and Majorel.
The court also upheld interim orders issued in March that temporarily banned Meta from engaging its new content moderation subcontractor, Majorel, and Sama from conducting any form of redundancy pending the determination of the case. Sama has since sent moderators on permanent leave, leaving Meta’s content review in sub-Saharan Africa in limbo.
The moderators claim that Sama failed to issue redundancy notices as required by Kenyan law, and that their terminal dues were pegged on their signing of non-disclosure documents. Sama argues that it observed the law and communicated the decision to discontinue content moderation in a town hall meeting and through email and notification letters.
Meta and Sama are also facing another case over claims of exploitation and union busting, while some Ethiopians have sued the social media giant over claims that it amplified hateful content and failed to have enough personnel with an understanding of local languages to moderate content.
The ruling by the labor relations court paves the way for a full hearing of the case. This is not the first time social media companies have been accused of mistreating their content moderators. In 2020, a former Facebook moderator sued the company for failing to provide a safe working environment and adequate mental health support. The case was settled for $52m.