22nd February 2024 4:29 pm
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Facebook being sued in Kenya over moderator working conditions

Moderating content on social media platforms is arguably one of the worst professions of the modern era when it comes to mental health and wellbeing, as moderators often have to sit through and watch several hours of potentially disturbing content daily.

It is precisely for a lack of disclosing this fact that Facebook and San Francisco-based subcontractor Sama faces a lawsuit in Kenya.

Said lawsuit was filed by Daniel Motaung, according to a report from The Washington Post, who alleges among other things that both companies have placed workers in exploitative and unsafe conditions, while also accusing the pair of human trafficking.

In a petition shared by London legal non-profit Foxglove, Motaung, “calls upon Kenya’s courts to order Facebook and its outsourcing companies to end exploitation in its Nairobi moderation hub, where content moderators work in dangerous conditions.”

Motuang, who worked for Sama for six months before being fired for reportedly wanting to spearhead a unionising effort, recounts his time as a moderator, adding that one of the first videos he had to watch involved a beheading.

“I had potential. When I went to Kenya, I went to Kenya because I wanted to change my life. I wanted to change the life of my family. I came out a different person, a person who has been destroyed,” he added.

Time also reported on the inner workings of Sama’s Nairobi operations in February of this year, noting from insiders of the stress-filled working conditions, as well as the wilful ignoring of advice from in-house counsellors that moderators should be allowed to take wellness breaks throughout the day.

Along with sharing his own story, which mirrors several other accounts from moderators in the region, Motuang also notes that Facebook and Sama have been placing misleading job ads, specifically targeting poor people in Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda.

These ads are said to have never fully disclosed that people would be working as Facebook moderators, nor the amount of disturbing content they would have to watch daily as part of the job requirement.

It remains to be seen what will come of this matter and whether the lawsuit will head to court, but Meta’s (formerly Facebook) offices in Nairobi issued a statement to The Washington Post in reply to this story.

An unnamed spokesperson said that Meta requires that its, “partners to provide industry-leading pay, benefits and support.”

“We also encourage content reviewers to raise issues when they become aware of them and regularly conduct independent audits to ensure our partners are meeting the high standards we expect of them,” they added.

While it is unclear what will come of this, it is yet another harrowing account of life as a content moderator for Facebook.

 

 

[Source – The Washington Post]

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