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Court stops mass layoff of Facebook moderators

Employment and Labour Relations Court has barred social media giant Meta from cutting ties with Facebook moderators.

This comes as Meta allegedly terminated its contract with a Kenyan labour outsourcing company Samasource Kenya EPZ.

Before the court, the affected employees alleged that Meta, which owns Facebook, has instead contracted another firm, Majorel, to hire new employees for the same services.

Justice Nduma Nderi ordered Meta not to recruit new moderators through Majorel until the case is heard and determined.

"An interim injunction order is hereby granted retraining the first and second respondents (Meta) from engaging content moderators to serve the Eastern and Southern African region through the fourth respondent (Majorel) or through any other agent, partner or engaging moderators to do the work currently being done by the moderators engaged through the third respondent (Samasource) pending the hearing of this application," said Justice Nderi.

Majorel, which is also a labour outsourcing firm, has moderators for Tik Tok in Kenya.

Kiana Andrise and 38 other moderators filed the case. They have sued Meta Platforms, INC, Meta Platforms Ireland Limited, Samasource Kenya EPZ Limited and Majorel Kenya Limited.

In the case, the court heard that Samasource allegedly issued a blanket redundancy notice on March 10, 2023. The moderators alleged that they have already been blacklisted following a separate case where Meta is accused of infringing the moderator's labour rights.

The moderators want the court to force Meta to provide them with medical, psychological and psychiatric care. They claim that they have been offered 'wellness counseling' as an exit package.

The battle now raises the lid on the operations of multinational companies in Kenya through firms that outsource labour on their behalf.

In a separate case filed by South African Daniel Motaung, Meta claimed that it has no footprints in Kenya and therefore cannot be sued before Kenyan courts.

Motaung claimed this is the firm contracted to clean up content depicting or exposing violence, suicide and self-injury, child sexual exploitation, abuse and nudity, adult sexual exploitation, bullying and harassment, human exploitation and privacy violations among others.

He claimed that those working at Samasource have reported suffering mental breakdowns after being exposed to harmful content for long hours.

In the new case filed on Tuesday this week, the moderators argue that those who were hired from outside Kenya risk deportation. They want the court to bar Meta from terminating contract with Samasource.

The case will be heard on March 28.

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