According to a ruling from a Kenyan court, Meta can be sued in the East African country for alleged illegal sacking and blacklisting of content moderators, disregarding the social media giant’s application to have the case dismissed.
Meta Platforms Inc and Meta Platforms Ireland Ltd sought the case to be dismissed on the grounds that they are foreign corporations with no jurisdiction to hear and decide petitions against them in Kenyan courts.
183 content moderators have sued Meta and its Sub-Saharan African content review partners, Sama and Majorel, in the Kenys. The moderators claim Sama illegally fired them after it shut down its content review arm, and that Meta instructed its new Luxembourg-based partner, Majorel, to blacklist ex-Sama content moderators.
The court said it has the “jurisdiction to determine the matter of alleged unlawful and unfair termination of employment on grounds of redundancy” by Meta and Sama. It also said it has the authority “to enforce an alleged violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms” by Meta, Sama, and Majorel.
“The present dispute arises from an employer–employee dispute. The court will consider the nature and extent of liability with regard to the alleged breaches and violations of the Constitution arising and or related to employment and Labour relations in Kenya,” added the labor relations court.
“It is in the court’s considered finding that it is immaterial whether the alleged violations occur in a physical or virtual space within the jurisdiction of this Court in Kenya.” The ruling now paves the way for a full hearing.
The court also upheld interim orders issued in mid-March that barred Meta from engaging its new content moderation subcontractor, Majorel, and Sama from engaging in any form of redundancy until the case was resolved. Sama has since placed moderators on indefinite leave, putting Meta’s content review in Sub-Saharan Africa in jeopardy.
According to the moderators, Sama failed to issue redundancy notices as required by Kenyan law, and their termination pay was contingent on signing non-disclosure agreements.
Sama claims that it followed the law and communicated the decision to end content moderation in a town hall meeting, as well as via email and notification letters.
Sama laid off 260 moderators at its Kenya hub, which hosted moderators from various African countries, at the end of last month as it wound down its content moderation arm to focus on labeling work (computer vision data annotation).
Meta and Sama are also involved in another case involving allegations of exploitation and union busting. Some Ethiopians have also sued the social media giant, alleging that it amplified hateful content and lacked sufficient personnel who understood local languages to moderate content.