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Kenyan judge temporarily blocks mass layoff of Facebook moderators

Signage outside Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California, US, on 2 February 2023. (Photo: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg)

A Kenyan judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked the mass redundancy of about 260 Facebook content moderators working for an outsourcing company contracted by the social media site's parent company Meta, court documents show.

Judge Matthews Nduma issued an interim injunction against Meta and the Kenya-based outsourcing firm Sama, preventing them from terminating the content moderators’ contracts at the end of March, pending a judgment on the legality of their redundancy.

Last week, 43 moderators at Facebook’s Nairobi moderation hub filed a lawsuit against the social media company and Sama for unlawful redundancy.

The 43 applicants say they lost their jobs with Sama for organising a union. They also say they were blacklisted from applying for the same roles at another outsourcing firm, Luxembourg-based Majorel, after Facebook switched contractors.

“This judgment was issued without Sama being able to participate or correct any of the facts,” Sama said in an emailed statement.

“We had no intention of laying anyone off prior to the (end of March) in any case, and will certainly abide by any directives issued by the court.”

Meta and Majorel did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the temporary injunction.

Nduma also temporarily barred Meta from subcontracting the roles of the workers who moderate Facebook content for eastern and southern Africa.

Last month, Meta filed an appeal in Kenya challenging a ruling which said it could be sued in a separate lawsuit brought by a moderator over alleged poor working conditions, even though it has no official presence in the east African country.

The court cases could have implications for how Meta works with content moderators globally. The US company works with thousands of moderators around the world, tasked with reviewing graphic content posted on its platform.

(Reporting by Aaron Ross and Hereward Holland; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Sandra Maler and Emelia Sithole-Matarise.)

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