Petitioner urges Nairobi court to hear case against Facebook parent

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Facebook employees unveil a new logo and the name 'Meta' on the sign in front of Facebook headquarters on October 28, 2021 in Menlo Park, California. PHOTO | GETTY IMAGES | AFP

A South African man who has sued Facebook’s parent company, Meta, over alleged exploitation and poor working conditions at its Nairobi office Tuesday urged the Kenyan court to determine the case, arguing that it had the powers to do so.

Daniel Motaung told Justice Jacob Gakeri that Meta Platforms Inc and Meta Platforms Ireland Ltd, which are listed as respondents in the suit, were his employers and cannot distance themselves from the case.

The American social media giant firm wants the petition thrown out, arguing that they are foreign corporations and neither resident nor trading in Kenya.

The company further said Mr Motaung, a Facebook content moderator, had no contractual relationship or agreement with Meta.

He was contracted by a third party, which had been outsourced for content moderation services on Facebook.

His lawyer, Mercy Mutemi, however, told the judge that Mr Motaung received his instructions directly from the American firm.

“It is also the 2nd and 3rd Respondents (Meta Platforms) who evaluated his work. Simply put, the Petitioner was working on Facebook, the 2nd and 3rd Respondents’ product, using a manual developed by the 2nd and 3rd Respondents,” Ms Mutemi said.

She added that Meta monitored Mr Motaung very closely and even kept track of his breaks.

“This court, therefore, has jurisdiction to entertain matters regarding the 2nd and 3rd Respondents’ actions in Kenya as they conduct their business and earn revenue in Kenya,” she said.

Meta also pays the digital service tax from the income it derives in Kenya, the court was told. Ms Mutemi noted that the payment of tax indicates that Meta operates in Kenya, which justifies why the court has jurisdiction to determine any matter where their actions in the country have been questioned.

Meta’s lawyer, Fred Ojiambo, urged the court to strike out the case saying it cannot hear the petition before determination of whether it has jurisdiction.

“It allows the court to weigh the basis of the Petitioner’s claim against a foreign defendant, and more importantly, it allows the court to examine if whether the claim is allowed to proceed, any judgment or decree of the court can be enforced outside the court’s jurisdiction,” he said.

Senior Counsel Ojiambo added that the Constitution does not apply beyond the geographical limits of Kenya.

Also read: Suit against Facebook parent fails to start as lawyer absent

Mr Motaung is seeking compensation, arguing Meta acted negligently by failing to provide moderators with adequate psychosocial support after exposing them to graphic content.

He claimed he was sacked after questioning the working conditions in the Nairobi office.

Meta is sued alongside its local outsourcing agent Samasource Kenya EPZ Limited, a company registered in the United States, under which Mr Motaung was working.

The court will rule on the application on February 6, 2023.

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