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Meta appeals court ruling declaring content moderators employees

Meta will appeal Kenya’s court ruling that it is the main employer of sub-Saharan African moderators.

Meta appealed the March orders ruling last week. 184 moderators sued it and its content review partner in sub-Saharan Africa, Sama, for unlawful contract termination. The moderators also say Meta ordered Majorel, the social media giant’s new moderation partner in the region, to blacklist them.

Last Friday, the Employment and Labor Relations Court ruled that Meta was the moderators’ primary employer and Sama was “merely an agent…” outsourced to supervise the work.

The court ruled that the moderators provided Meta-related services using its technology and meeting its performance and accuracy metrics. The court extended moderators’ contracts because it “found that the job of content moderation is available” and “the applicants will continue working upon the prevailing or better terms in the interim.”

The court also barred Meta and Sama from firing moderators until the case was resolved, saying there was no justification for the redundancies.

Meta, in court documents seen, accused the court of “re-writing contracts of employment” between the moderators and Sama and “imposing terms and obligations” on Meta without knowing the details of the contract.

Joanne Redmond, Meta’s EMEA director and associate general counsel for labour and employment, stated in a June 7 affidavit that the moderators were Sama’s employees and that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the case.

Meta claims, among other things, that the court erred by ordering it to regularize moderators’ immigration status and provide them with medical care.

The court found moderators’ work “inherently hazardous” and ordered Meta and Sama to provide medical, psychiatric, and psychological care instead of “wellness counseling.”

Meta’s Facebook moderators remove hateful, misinformed, and violent posts.

After dropping Meta’s contract and content review services, Sama fired 260 moderators.

The moderators claim that Sama fired them illegally by failing to give them redundancy notices. The suit also alleges that moderators were not given a 30-day termination notice and that their termination dues were contingent on signing non-disclosure documents.

Sama told it followed Kenyan law and announced the end of content moderation in a town hall, emails, and letters.

They claimed Majorel denied them jobs because they worked at Sama. The court ordered the new moderator to stop bias.

Meta is facing its third Kenyan lawsuit after South African Daniel Motaung sued the company last year for labor and human trafficking, unfair labor relations, union busting, and failure to provide “adequate” mental health and psychosocial support. Motaung claims he was fired for organizing a 2019 strike and unionizing Sama employees.

Ethiopians have sued Meta over claims that Facebook’s lack of safety measures fueled conflicts that killed 500,000 Ethiopians and one petitioner’s father during the Tigray War.

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