Meta fails in bid to be removed as a party from an exploitation lawsuit against it and moderation partner Sama in Kenya • TechCrunch

More drama is afoot for Facebook’s parent company Meta on the African continent. A Kenyan court today rejected Meta’s request to be removed as party in a lawsuit filed last year against it and Sama, its main subcontractor for content moderation in Africa. Together, the two are being accused of exploitation and union busting.

Meta had sought to distance itself from the case, claiming that it’s a foreign company doing business in Kenya, and that it contracts with Sama but is not an operating business in Kenya itself. However, a ruling today from Jacob Kariuki, Kenya’s employment and labour relations court judge, determined that Meta will remain as a party in the case.

“The second and third respondents’ names [Meta Platforms Inc and Meta platforms Ireland Ltd] shall not be struck out at this stage,” the judge said in a press call today. “The notice of motion is disallowed.” It appears that, even though Meta is not incorporated in Kenya, some aspects of how it operates in the country make it liable regardless. The full ruling is due to be published today or tomorrow.

Meta and Sama are being sued in Kenya by Daniel Motaung, a South African national, who is claiming forced labor, exploitation, human trafficking, unfair labor relations, union busting and failure to provide “adequate” mental health and psychosocial support. Motaung was allegedly laid off for organizing a 2019 strike and trying to unionize Sama’s employees.

After the case was filed, Meta requested to be struck off the suit, citing that it’s not incorporated in the East African country, and that Motaung was not its employee but Sama’s.

Sama’s moderators provide content moderation services Meta’s platforms — which include Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp — to remove content that promotes hate, misinformation and violence. Other customers of Sama’s include OpenAI, which has contracted with Sama for workers in Kenya to help label toxic and violent content in the development of its ChatGPT generative AI chatbot.

To complicate matters, in the wake of the suit, Sama said in January that it would be closing its content moderation hub in Kenya, citing the need to streamline operations.

This is a developing story.

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