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Facebook, former worker battle on powers of court

Meta hired Samasource Kenya EPZ  to keep Facebook safe. [iStockphoto]

Social media giant Meta has clashed with a Facebook moderator on whether the Employment and Labour Relations Court (ELRC) has powers to determine a case filed over an alleged toxic work environment at a Kenyan firm.

Meta hired Samasource Kenya EPZ  to keep Facebook safe. In the case, an ex-Facebook moderator Daniel Motaung accuses Samasource of infringing on his labour rights, including allegedly reviewing the most gruesome content on the global platform.

While arguing that the court has powers to entertain his case, Matoung in his submissions, argued that Meta has its footprints in Kenya. According to the moderator, it is widely used in the country and pays digital tax to the government.

“Petitioner has been able to satisfactorily show that the 2nd and 3rd respondents (Meta Platforms, Inc and Meta Platforms Ireland Limited) do have a large footprint in Kenya with extensive operations. These operations have clothed this Honourable Court with automatic jurisdiction. There was, therefore, no need for the Petitioner to seek to leave under Order 5 Rule 21 of the Civil Procedure Rules to sue the 2nd and 3rd Respondents in Kenya,” argued Matoung’s lawyer, Mercy Mutemi.

According to the lawyer, Meta Platforms and Meta Platforms Ireland Limited cannot escape liability for the human rights violations they visited on Matoung as a Facebook Content Moderator, while based in Kenya.  The South African insists that it is Meta who monitored his activities including how long he took for health breaks.

“It is the Petitioner’s case that for all intents and purposes, the 2nd and 3rd respondents were his employers.  Simply put, the petitioner was working on Facebook, the 2nd and 3rd respondents’ product, using a manual developed by the 2nd and 3rd.

He was monitored very closely by the 2nd and 3rd respondents who even kept track of his bathroom breaks,” argued Matuong’s other lawyer Edwin Obuya. On the other hand, Meta wants the court to dismiss the case arguing that Kenyan courts have no powers to hear it. The Mark Zuckerberg led firm’s lawyer 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.

Motaung in his case detailed his employment with Samasource. He told court the firm was contracted to clean up 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 in Samasource have reported suffering from mental breakdowns for being exposed to abusive and harmful content for long hours.

Meta, 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.