Kenyan Facebook content moderators form union


Daniel Motaung, a former content moderator, addressing the media at Movenpick Hotel, Nairobi on May 1, 2023, where they formed a union to lobby for fair working conditions and better practices. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

Kenyan digital content moderators drawn from multinational tech giant platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and TikTok have formed a labour union that they say will help in pushing for better working conditions.

In a summit in Nairobi on Monday, 200 content moderators from Sama and Majorel – the firms that serve Facebook, TikTok and YouTube – called for an end to what they termed as the tech giants’ continued mistreatment of their workers, lamenting that they have for long worked without a clear job identity.

“I applied for a content moderator job but it came as a surprise when signing my contract that I learnt I was hired for a customer service role,” said a content moderator.

The formation of the lobby comes against the backdrop of a lawsuit filed by 43 Facebook content moderators hired by Sama on behalf of the American tech firm in Kenya, accusing the social media’s parent firm Meta of unfair dismissal after they were issued with redundancy notices in January.

According to the suit papers, Meta had gone ahead and engaged Majorel to recruit new content moderators as replacements in a move that put the livelihoods of at least 260 moderators on the line.

A Nairobi court, however, put brakes on the layoff plan in March until the case is heard and determined.

The event on Monday brought together moderators covering 14 different African languages who approved of the formation of a union to address emerging issues in the trade.

Daniel Motaung, a former content moderator who got fired after trying to lead lobby-creation efforts, said the content moderation business is in a state of crisis.

"They serve as the first line of defense against harmful content, yet they face hazardous work conditions without hazard pay. Mental health support is severely lacking, job security is scarce, and some moderators feel silenced by strict non-disclosure agreements,” he said.

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