Africa-Press – Cape verde. On Monday, a court in Kenya ruled that Meta* could be sued in the country on charges related to forced labor, human trafficking, and freedom of association. This came as part of a lawsuit filed against Meta and its partner by a former outsourced moderator on the charges listed above as well as insufficient mental health support for employees.
The ruling made by the Kenyan labor court has opened a pathway and established a strong precedent for employees to sue Meta in countries where the company is not based, but has outsources its activities, says Barbara Lazarotto, PhD researcher in law and Marie Curie Actions fellow, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, in an interview with Sputnik.
The legal case was launched in May 2022 by Daniel Motaung, a former outsourced Facebook content moderator, who made his accusations against Facebook’s owner and its Kenya-based outsourcing partner Sama. In January 2023, Sama announced that it had decided to quit content moderation operations for Meta.
Meta initially argued that it could not be sued in Kenyan courts because it is a foreign corporation and does not operate in the African country. The multinational corporation asked that its name be removed from the lawsuit. Now, as the as the labor court has declared Facebook part of the case, the process will continue.
According to her, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg profits from advertising his services to Kenyan users, but at the same time refuses to invest enough resources to provide safety to Kenyan workers and treat them “with the dignity and humanity they deserve.”
Amnesty International Kenya deemed the ruling “a significant step,” ensuring the authority of the country’s courts to “protect and enforce fundamental human rights” and “the first time that Meta Platforms Inc. will be significantly subjected to a court of law in the global south.”
A key part of Motaung’s case was the issue of the mental state of workers. The claimant stressed that together with his colleagues, he had suffered psychological injuries after repeated exposure to disturbing content as a moderator.
According to da Rosa Lazarotto, the debate over the need for human content moderation is a complex one, as at the moment, artificial intelligence mechanisms are not able to completely substitute humans, despite having evolved a lot.
In the expert’s opinion, the victims of the company will not be able to receive true justice, as some psychological injuries are irreparable, especially considering the gravity of the content the majority of the workers have seen.
According to her, companies such as Meta are not fully committed to spending revenue on human content moderation, since it is an invisible job and often not considered justifiable from the cost perspective by the company. This results in the hiring of workers in the Global South, which has relatively lenient labor regulations that allow for poor working conditions and consequent psychological injuries, da Rosa Lazarotto adds.
She also notes that it is Meta’s enormous size as a corporation that leads to the company becoming a magnet for controversy. The decision comes at a time when Meta faces another case in Kenya’s High Court for promoting violence-inciting hate speech that was filed following the murder of an Ethiopian professor during the Tigray conflict. The son of the victim, who is ethnic Tigrayan, said that it was Facebook’s algorithms that led to his father’s demise by promoting content calling for violence against Tigrayans.
In 2021, the firm was subject to a similar lawsuit related to violence-inciting content posted during the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar. In March 2022, Meta became the first-ever public company to be outlawed as an extremist organization in Russia. The decision followed after the firm allowed calls for violence on its platforms targeting Russians in the context of the Ukraine conflict. Posts included content advocating for the death of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. In April, Russia imposed sanctions on Mark Zuckerberg.
*Meta is banned in Russia as an extremist organization.
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