Moderators seek court protection to testify against social media firm

Meta owns Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger. [iStockphoto]

More moderators want the court to protect them in a bid to testify on an alleged toxic work environment in a local firm contracted by global social media giant Meta that monitors Facebook.

The employees currently working with Kenyan firm, Samasource Kenya EPZ, have asked the Employment and Labour Relations Court to lift non-disclosure agreements that prevent them from giving evidence in court even as Meta asked the court to dismiss the case filed by former Facebook moderator Daniel Motaung.

Senior lawyers John Chigiti and Mercy Mutemi stated that there are moderators who are willing to testify against Samasource and Meta but they fear they will be fired.

They want their faces hidden, voices distorted and sections of their contract and pay slips redacted claiming that they fear retaliation after giving evidence.

“Protection of the identities of the intended witnesses will maximise and improve the quality of the intended witnesses’ evidence as they will be free to provide all the relevant evidence without fear of retaliation,” argued Chigiti.

Meta owns Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger. [iStockphoto]

He continued: “The intended witnesses herein being whistle-blowers will be placing their lives and livelihoods at risk to come forward as witnesses in this petition. They, therefore, rely on the protection of this honourable court.”

At the same time, Justice Jacob Gakeri heard that Motaung, who is a South African national, will also call an expert witness who he wants to be heard in camera.

Meanwhile, Meta wants the court to dismiss the case, arguing that Kenyan courts have no powers to hear it.

The Mark Zuckerberg firm’s lawyer Dr Fred Ojiambo argues that his client is a foreign corporation that is neither a resident nor trades in Kenya.

“The petition herein against the second and third respondents be struck out and wholly dismissed as this honourable court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the petition against the second and third respondents jointly and severally,” argued Ojiambo.

Privacy violations

Motaung, in his case, detailed his employment at Samasource. He claimed the firm was contracted to clean up texts deemed to promote violence, suicide and self-injury, child sexual exploitation, abuse and nudity, adult sexual exploitation, bullying and harassment, human exploitation, and privacy violations. 

He claimed that those working in Samasource have reported suffering from mental breakdowns from being exposed to abusive and harmful content for long hours.

Motaung claimed that those working in Samasource have reported suffering from mental breakdowns. [iStockphoto]

“Facebook content moderators engaged through the first respondent (Samasource) have reported experiencing insomnia, nightmares, unwanted memories of content they moderated, anxiety, depression, and emotional detachment. Some suffer from mental health conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” Motaung.

Formerly known as Facebook, the technology corporation headquartered in Menlo Park, Silicon Valley, California, in the US, owns and controls three of the world’s most popular social media and communications services.

Meta owns Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger. The papers filed before the Labour court indicate that it is not registered in Kenya.

Motaung was hired as a Zulu-speaking moderator in 2019. He claims that he had been informed that he would be shortlisted as a data analyst. Excited, he relocated to Kenya. “When the petitioner began his work, he realised the job was dangerous and could harm his mental and physical health. He had no idea that he would spend his working hours looking at photos and videos of the most graphic and violent content,” Motaung lawyers said.

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