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Kenya: Facebook Layoff Lawsuit – Negotiations Crumble as Parties Fail to Reach Deal

Settlement talks in a long-standing legal case involving 184 Nairobi-based Facebook content moderators and Meta, the platform’s parent company collapsed, reports BBC.

These moderators, responsible for screening violent and graphic content, allege that they were terminated for their efforts to organize a union. They were employed by Sama, a local subcontractor, which expressed no opposition to unionization.

In total 260 moderators were laid off when Sama ended its contract with Meta. The 184 moderators bringing the legal action allege that they were laid off in retaliation for complaints about working conditions and attempts to form a union.

The moderators are pursuing a legal case against Meta, Sama, and another outsourcing firm, Majorel. While Meta utilizes artificial intelligence to detect and remove graphic Facebook content, it still relies on human moderators to address problematic posts.

Numerous moderators spoke about the traumatic nature of their work, which paid around U.S.$630 per month. One moderator cited the distress of viewing a video depicting a man taking his own life in the presence of a child.

The moderators said they were laid off in retaliation for complaints about working conditions and unionization efforts. They demand that Meta acknowledges moderators’ right to join a union and address working conditions. They also allege unfair denial of work opportunities with Majorel.

Recent developments show that Meta’s work with Majorel in Kenya won’t proceed due to a court order related to the ongoing legal case. The parties were ordered to seek an out-of-court settlement through mediation in August, which has now failed. The legal case will continue, with the next hearing scheduled for October 31.

Meta’s lawyer argued that progress was being made in the talks, while lawyers for the moderators accused Meta of lacking commitment. Sama expressed disappointment with the mediation’s outcome but mentioned reaching resolutions with around 60 moderators separately.

Meta faces more legal challenges in Kenya, including a lawsuit by ex-moderator Daniel Motaung over poor working conditions and allegations of its algorithm contributing to hate and violence during Ethiopia’s civil war.

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