Facebook faces suit over work conditions in Nairobi office

A former Facebook employee who was reportedly fired after questioning working conditions has threatened to sue the parent company Meta for wrongful termination of his contract.

Mr Daniel Motaung, a former content moderator for the social media platform, claims he was fired for trying to organise a trade union with his 100 co-workers in the Nairobi office to protest what they felt were exploitative working conditions.

His lawyers on Tuesday wrote a demand letter to Meta and a San Francisco-based Ethical Artificial Intelligence (AI) firm called Sama, which provides content moderation services for Facebook in Nairobi.

The letter put the two firms on notice of a forthcoming legal suit for violating the rights of Kenyan and international staff, noting that it was their constitutional right to form a union.

Global operations
“Content moderators like Daniel are the most important and least-discussed aspect of Facebook’s global operations. Their job is to sift through the social media posts of Facebook’s nearly three billion monthly users and remove posts that violate its rules – such as graphic violence, hate, and misinformation,” it stated.

They said the nature of the work poses a health risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which has not been addressed.

“Facebook subcontracts most of this work to companies like Sama – a practice that keeps Facebook’s profit margins high but at the cost of thousands of moderators’ health – and the safety of Facebook worldwide. Sama moderators report ongoing violations, including conditions which are unsafe, degrading, and pose a risk of PTSD,” the letter said.

The lawyers said the claimant believes that Sama participated in unlawful “union-busting action”, which included flying over a top executive from the United States to crush the fledgling union.

The workers have given Facebook an ultimatum of 21 days to address some 12 demands of fair treatment or face legal action.