Facebook wants ‘toxic’ office case in Kenya dropped

Content creators in Kenya will earn money from postings on Meta platforms Facebook and Instagram from June. FILE PHOTO | AFP

Social technology firm Meta wants a case filed by a South African Facebook moderator who is seeking compensation over claims of being subjected to toxic working environment dismissed arguing that the Kenyan courts do not have jurisdiction to determine the case.

Meta Platforms Inc and Meta Platforms Ireland say in the application to be heard later this month that they are foreign corporations that are not domiciled or trading in Kenya and the High Court cannot, therefore, have jurisdiction over them.

South African Daniel Motaung filed the case last month stating that he and his colleagues suffered psychological injuries arising from repeated exposure to extremely disturbing, graphic violent content coupled with toxic working environment.

Mr Motaung was employed as a moderator by Meta’s local outsourcing company- Samasource Kenya EPZ ltd. He wants to be paid damages for the suffering he underwent in the six months he worked for the firm.

“In any event, the petitioner has not invoked the jurisdiction of this court by seeking and obtaining the leave of this honourable court as by law required,” said Senior Counsel Fred Ojiambo on behalf of Meta.

Mr Ojiambo further said the South African failed to disclose to the court that he signed a non-disclosure agreement as a moderator, which bared him from giving evidence against the organisation. The application will be heard on June 23.

Meta said it joined the case in protest because the court has no powers to entertain the petition. “Unless the orders sought herein are granted, there is imminent risk of the court acting without jurisdiction," he said.

Meta said in the application that its names should be struck of the case because they were joined wrongly joined.

Mr Motaung filed the case seeking to be paid damages claiming he and his colleagues were also subjected to extra working hours, without compensation.

He claimed that a large number of moderators left Samasource in January 2021 and instead of hiring replacements, the firm forced the content moderators to cover additional hours.

He says he had no idea that he would spend his working hours looking at photos and videos of the most graphic and violent content.

Mr Motaung further said he and his former colleagues suffered serious psychological injuries arising from repeated exposure to extremely disturbing, graphic violent content coupled with toxic working environment.

“Content moderation at Facebook has been found to pose a risk to workers’ mental health. Because of their repeated exposure to gruesome content such as beheadings, torture, and rape, a significant number of Facebook moderators’ contract post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” he says.

The man says he was hired as a content moderator in March 2019 after graduating from university and was forced to relocate to Kenya but he was subjected to unreasonable working conditions including irregular pay, inadequate mental health support and violations of his rights to privacy and dignity.

The South African says four of his former colleagues wants to testify in support of his case. All four witnesses, he said, worked as moderators in Facebook’s African hub in Nairobi, which is operated by Samasource.

He claims that the four have sought anonymity and protection orders to shield them and their families from retaliation.

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