Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has received an order from Kenya’s Employment and Labour Relations Court to cut ties with Sama and Majorel, its main content moderators in the country. This complicates Meta’s position as the defendant of a lawsuit last month, initiated by a group of 43 content moderators, who are accusing Meta and its partners of allegedly discriminating against them and enforcing unlawful dismissals.
The group of content moderators are ex-employees of Sama, a content moderation partner that’s worked with Meta since 2019. They comprised the 260-strong workforce that Meta and Sama planned to lay off in Q1 of 2023. But last month, a Kenyan court stopped the layoffs from happening.
Time reported in March that Majorel, Meta’s replacement for Sama and TikTok’s content moderation partner, is just as toxic to its workers as Sama was. The report stated that Majorel offers ”a fraction of the [Sama’s] pay and [subjects workers to] worse living conditions.” Kenya’s court subsequently barred Meta from engaging Majorel’s services, a move that came on the back of the group’s lawsuit.
The recent court orders have directed Meta not to engage third parties “through employment, subcontracting, or any manner whatsoever, 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 also maintained that Meta must engage only Sama for its content moderation needs in sub-Saharan Africa.
According to a TechCrunch report, Majorel is decrying the court order restricting Meta from using its services, maintaining that such a move will adversely affect its business since it has already set up a hub and recruited hundreds of content moderators.
“For as long as the interim orders made by the court preventing it from performing the content moderation projection remain in place, that the revenue it expected to cover the investments made by the 4th Petitioner (Majorel) is at risk and may be lost,” Sven Alfons A De Cauter, Majorel director, said in a court affidavit.
On the other hand, Sama explained that its contract with Meta had expired, and it is accruing a huge wage bill keeping the moderators with no job. According to them, the expired contract with Meta—without a subsequent re-engagement—means there are no new roles for these moderators to fill.
Meta finds a new and unknown partner
As Majorel and Sama await results from their separate petitions, Meta has employed the services of another content moderation partner for its Kenyan market, fuelling contempt of court claims by petitioners. A Meta spokesperson said Meta is working with “global partners.”
In the past, Sama and Majorel had to fire content moderators all over the continent, citing an inability to properly sift through content written in local languages. Considering this, Meta’s claims of having “global partners” begs the question of whether these partners are armed with enough personnel with a nuanced understanding of local African languages.