Last year, Meta alongside its main content moderator in Africa, Sama, came under fire for exploitation and union busting. Meta was dragged with its partner in different lawsuits over allegations like poor working conditions, not having enough capacity to deal with content moderation, etc. On Tuesday, Sama announced the closure of its content moderation arm in Kenya and cited a need to streamline its operations.
In March, a lawsuit was filed against Meta and Sama over alleged unfair and unsafe working conditions for employees requiring twelve demands on workplace conditions to be met. The law firm handling the case gave Meta and Sama a period of 21 days, starting from the 29th of March, to meet these demands or face the lawsuit. Sama was accused by Nzili and Sumbi Advocates, the law firm representing Daniel Motaung who was a former Sama employee who was fired for organizing a strike over poor working conditions and remuneration, of violating various rights of its employees including the health and privacy of these employees – both Kenyans and non-Kenyans. The lawyers claimed that “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 post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” There were also claims that Sama mostly recruited moderators across Africa with a job description that they were taking up pay center jobs and they only get to know about the true details of their job after relocating to its hub in Nairobi and signing an irreversible employment contract. Their job entailed removing Facebook users that promoted misinformation, hate, and violence, as against the call center job they were told about.
In May, Meta and Sama received another lawsuit over claims of exploitation and union-busting. Recently, a lawsuit called for Meta to increase its content moderation capacity in Kenya.
Sama’s latest decision will see the layoffs of about 200 employees or 3 percent of its team as the company shifts its focus away from content review services to focus on computer vision data annotation. Sama reportedly encouraged affected workers to apply for other positions at its Kenya and Uganda offices.
According to a report by the Financial Times, Sama said that “The current economic climate requires more efficient and streamlined business operations.” The report also added that Meta had already contacted Majorel, a company based in Luxembourg, to takeover over Sama.