Rights groups are calling on Meta to halt attempts to silence Daniel Motaung, a South African content moderator and whistleblower who is suing it alongside Sama, its main subcontractor for content moderation in Africa, in Kenya over claims of union busting and exploitation.
In a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, the group of more than 80 organizations and individuals including, Frances Haugen, a whistleblower and former Meta executive, demanded that the social media giant and Sama stop efforts to have the Kenyan court issue a gag order on Motaung.
Their efforts follow last month’s court hearing, where Meta asked the court to stop Motaung, a South African national, from talking to the media and in public, saying it risked prejudicing court proceedings -- a plea that the court rejected. The court, however, allowed Meta’s lawyers to raise contempt of court proceedings if they had any evidence of the same.
Previously, Meta had applied to have the case dropped, noting that moderators had signed a non-disclosure agreement, barring them from issuing evidence against it.
“…your companies are aggressively attempting to silence Daniel, as well as Foxglove, the legal NGO supporting him, with a gag order and contempt of court proceedings. Your lawyers have even asked a judge to “crack the whip” against Daniel, a frontline worker who suffers post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the work he did for you and for which he was earning just $2.20 per hour. It appears Meta and Sama would rather shut Daniel up than meaningfully address his allegations,” the letter, shared with TechCrunch, read in part.
The rights groups further urged Sama and Meta to support the unionization of its content moderation workforce.
“Your lawyers have even asked a judge to “crack the whip” against Daniel, a frontline worker who suffers post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the work he did for you and for which he was earning just $2.20 per hour. It appears Meta and Sama would rather shut Daniel up than meaningfully address his allegations,” read the letter, whose signatories include the Kenya Human Rights Commission, the All Africa Students Union, the Central Organization of Trade Unions in Kenya, Uni Global Union, Global Witness and Irish Council of Civil Liberties.
According to court records, Motaung, who was laid off for organizing a 2019 strike and trying to unionize the subcontractor’s employees, said his job exposed him to graphic content, which left a lasting effect on his mental health. Case files say Sama carried out a “deceptive recruitment process” by opening vacancies that failed to mention the nature of the job that successful applicants would do at its hub in Nairobi.
The moderators, sourced from a number of countries, including Ethiopia, Uganda and Somalia, sift through social media posts on all its platforms, including Facebook, to remove those perpetrating and perpetuating hate, misinformation and violence.
Motuang is seeking financial compensation for himself and other former and existing moderators, and also wants Sama and Meta compelled to stop union busting, and provide mental health support amongst other demands.