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Mediation fails between Meta and Kenyan moderators, rights group says

A 3D printed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta is seen in front of displayed Google logo in this illustration taken on November 2, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File photo

According to a tech rights organization that works with the moderators, settlement negotiations between Facebook’s parent firm Meta (META.O) and Kenyan content moderators have broken down over a claim of unjust dismissal.

The 184 moderators claim they were fired by one of the subcontractors, Sama, for organizing a union, and they sued Meta and two other parties earlier this year. After Facebook switched contractors, they claimed they were barred from applying for the same positions at a second company, Majorel.

The court requested out-of-court settlement negotiations in August and stated that the case would be brought before it if those failed.

In a statement released Monday, the British tech rights organization Foxglove said that Meta and Sama had made “very little attempt to address core issues raised by the petitioners. As a result, discussions had fallen.

“The responders weren’t being truthful; they were just buying time. Mercy Mutemi, an attorney for the plaintiffs, was cited in the statement as stating, “We continued waiting for them to participate… only for them to keep requesting for an extension of time and then come back every time to refuse to accept accountability.

Sama expressed disappointment over the mediation’s failure and said it would not comment more.

A statement stated that by working with roughly 60 moderators outside of the mediation process, it had “successfully reached a mutually agreed resolution, demonstrating our commitment and willingness to find an amicable, beneficial solution.” It also added that it was completely observing all court orders.

Meta chose not to respond. Majorel was silent for a while. Meta has refuted claims that Kenya has had a subpar working environment in the past by stating that it expects its partners to create conditions at the top of their sector.

Sama claims that it has consistently complied with Kenyan legislation and offers mental health assistance to its staff. Majorel stated in August that it doesn’t comment on issues affecting pending or ongoing litigation.

Additionally, the moderators claim that Meta is attempting to end their contracts against a previous court decision. The petitioners’ request to hold Meta and Sama in contempt of court will be heard on October 31, according to Foxglove.

Additionally, Meta has been sued in Kenya by two Ethiopian scholars and a rights organization who claim that Meta allowed violent and abusive messages from Ethiopia to increase on Facebook. A former moderator has also accused Meta of allowing horrible working conditions at Sama.

In response, Meta said in December last year that its Facebook and Instagram services’ policies forbade inciting hatred and violence.

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