American social media giant company, Meta, has suffered a major setback after the Labour court on Monday, February 6, 2023, declined to drop a case by a former Facebook content moderator in Nairobi for an alleged exploitation and poor working conditions.
Meta Platforms Inc (FB.O), the owner of Facebook, wanted the case dismissed arguing that it cannot be tried in Kenya and that the local Employment and Labour Relations Court has no jurisdiction to hear the suit lodged by ex-South African Facebook Moderator Daniel Motaung' against it and Samasource Kenya EPZ, its main subcontractor for content moderation in Africa, over claims of exploitation and union busting.
But Justice Jacob Gakeri declined to strike out the suit, in which the social media company is accused of failing to provide the content moderators based in the Nairobi hub with adequate psychosocial support after exposing them to graphic content.
In his ruling justice, Gakeri recognized that Facebook is not registered in Kenya but maintained it can be sued in Kenya.
The judge, however, granted Motaung' more time to furnish Meta with the court papers and ordered him to do so to enable the company to respond to the claims raised against it.
At the same time, the judge gagged the petitioner against prosecuting the suit in public or other forums.
“The orders not to prosecute the matter in other forums are still in force,” judge Gakeri stated.
He further directed the case to be mentioned on March 8, 2023, to confirm compliance of service to Meta and for further directions on how the case will proceed to a hearing.
Meta had argued that it ought not to have been sued in Kenya since the petitioner had been contracted by a third party, Samasource Kenya EPZ, which had been outsourced for content moderation services on Facebook.
The international social media firm had stated that the suit was incompetent, bad in law and unsustainable.
Through lawyer Fred Ojiambo, the company argued that Meta Platforms inc and Meta Platforms Ireland Limited, which are listed as respondents in the suit, are foreign corporations (not domiciled or trading in Kenya) and that the Kenyan High court has no authority over them.
In October last year, the petitioner alleged failure to cater for the mental well-being of the employees and poor working conditions.
He claimed that he was sacked in 2019 after questioning the working conditions of the employees based in the Nairobi office. He adds that he was exposed to graphic content that has affected him mentally.
The firm was sued alongside its local outsourcing agent Samasource Kenya EPZ Limited (Sama), a company registered in the United States.
“Sama and Meta acted negligently by failing to provide adequate precautions for the safety, health and wellbeing of the Facebook Content Moderators and exposing them to risk, danger and injury of which they were aware,” he said in the court papers.
In his petition, Moutang is seeking financial compensation for himself and other former and existing moderators. He also wants Sama and Meta compelled to stop union busting and provide mental health support amongst other demands.
Meta also owns WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.