Facebook and the moderators have 21 days to reach a settlement
Nairobi (AFP) - Facebook’s parent company Meta has agreed to pursue an out-of-court settlement with 184 content moderators who filed a lawsuit claiming unfair dismissal, according to legal documents seen by AFP on Wednesday.
The layoffs announced in January followed the end of a contract between Meta and Sama, a company hired to moderate Facebook content in east and southern Africa since 2019.
A Kenyan court in June suspended the mass sacking and barred Facebook’s new subcontractor, Luxembourg-headquartered Majorel, from blacklisting the moderators from applying for the same roles.
“The parties shall pursue an out of court settlement of this petition through mediation,” the consent agreement said.
Kenya’s former chief justice Willy Mutunga and an official from the labour ministry will mediate the process.
“The proceedings of the mediation shall be confidential except the final agreement reached… and adopted as an order of the court,” the agreement said.
A source close to the petitioners said the agreement would take effect on Wednesday.
The content moderators are seeking compensation for “damage caused to their mental health and general wellbeing as a result of the constant exposure to toxic content”, according to court documents.
The Silicon Valley behemoth and the moderators have 21 days to reach a settlement. If they fail to do so, the case will be heard by the employment and labour relations court.
Meta did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Meta – which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp – has faced scrutiny over the working conditions of content moderators who say they spend hours focused on hateful, disturbing posts with little regard for their well-being.
The company is facing two other legal cases in Kenya.
In 2022, a former South African employee of Sama, Daniel Motaung, filed a complaint in Kenya against Sama and Facebook.
He alleged, among other things, poor working conditions and a lack of mental health support.
The labour relations court in Nairobi declared in February it had the jurisdiction to try Motaung’s case. Meta has appealed the decision.
The social media giant is also facing another complaint in Kenya, where a local NGO and two Ethiopian citizens have accused Meta of failing to act against online hate speech in Africa.
The complainants alleged that this inaction resulted in the murder of a university professor in Ethiopia, and called for the creation of a $1.6-billion fund to compensate victims of hate and violence incited on Facebook.
AFP is involved in a partnership with Meta providing fact-checking services in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa.