Meta, Sama sued for busting unions, exploitation in Africa
Meta and its subcontractor are being sued for exploitation and union busting.
Meta and its subcontractor in Africa, Sama, are being accused of overexploitation and union-busting and are facing lawsuits representing Daniel Motaung, a Facebook whistleblower.
Motaung is a former South African content moderator who was fired in 2019 for organizing a strike to unionize Sama employees. He stresses that Meta and Sama “subjected current and former content moderators to forced labor and human trafficking for labor.”
The law firm said that Sama also carried out a "deceptive recruitment process" by offering vacancies while keeping the nature of the jobs under wraps. Sama, which is based in Kenya, recruits employees from Ethiopia, Uganda and Somalia.
Read more: How Facebook profits from war in Ukraine
The lawsuit demands financial compensation on the behalf of current and previous moderators, also demanding the two companies to stop busting unions, and provide mental health support.
“The varying descriptions (call center agents, agent and content moderator) for the position of a content moderator are deceptive and designed to trick unsuspecting applicants into unknowingly becoming Facebook Content Moderators. Applicants who responded to the call for ‘Agents’ were especially deceived,” Nzuli and Nsumbi advocates said in the case filed before the court.
Furthermore, content moderators were subjected to poor labor regulations, and were not provided with adequate mental health support. According to the lawsuit, Sama fostered a "toxic work environment" that prohibited employees from sharing experiences working in the company with third parties, including Meta.
“The Respondents (Meta and Sama) have intentionally created a toxic environment at their Nairobi office. This is designed to keep the Facebook Content Moderators from airing their grievances,” said the law firm.
Employee screen time and movement are measured during working hours for productivity monitoring.
A story narrated in Time magazine revealed that Sama recruited moderators deceptively: they were asked to take on call center jobs, in addition to the fact that the income for content moderators in Africa is the lowest around the world.
Meta distanced itself from the claims, claiming that Motaung was not its employee, while Sama denied the claims.
This wouldn't be the last instance where Facebook had knowledge of worker exploitation and abuse - and, actually, turned a blind eye.
In a report by the Associated Press last October, it was revealed that two years ago, Apple threatened to pull Facebook and Instagram from its app store over concerns about the platform being used as a tool to trade and sell maids in the West Asia.
After publicly promising to deal with the issue, Facebook acknowledged in internal documents that it was “under-enforcing on confirmed abusive activity” that saw Filipina maids complaining on Facebook of being abused. Apple relented and Facebook and Instagram remained in the app store.
But, Facebook’s crackdown seems to have had an expiry date. Even today, a quick search for “khadima,” or “maids” in Arabic, will result in accounts featuring posed photographs of Africans and South Asians with ages and prices listed next to their images.
While West Asia remains an important source of work for women in Asia and Africa hoping to provide for their families back home, Facebook acknowledged some countries across the region have “especially egregious” human rights issues when it comes to the protection of laborers.