Nairobi News


Nairobi judge upholds order blocking mass layoff of Facebook moderators

A Kenyan judge on Tuesday dismissed pleas from Facebook lawyers to dismiss a court order blocking Facebook and outsourcing company Sama from firing its entire content moderation workforce for East and Southern Africa.

The layoff had been due to complete at the end of this week and would have seen some 260 Facebook content moderators working for the outsourcing company contracted by the social media site’s parent company Meta lose their jobs.

The interim order was reinforced by Justice Nduma Nderi temporarily saves the moderators’ jobs.

Lawyers for Facebook sought unsuccessfully to have the injunction lifted.

The legal action was launched eleven days ago, when 43 moderators at Facebook’s Nairobi moderation hub, sued the social media firm and its outsourcers for sacking the entire workforce – and for blacklisting the laid-off workers.

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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.

In response, Justice Nderi made an emergency order blocking the redundancy which was announced in January.

All 260 content moderators working at Facebook’s moderation hub in Nairobi, Kenya, had been told they would be made redundant by Sama, the outsourcing firm since 2019.

Overnight, these moderators doing critical safety work for East and South Africa lost their jobs.

Lawyers for Facebook filed an objection to the interim order, arguing that Facebook lacks a registered office in Kenya, does not trade in Kenya, and cannot be sued in Kenya for the conduct of its outsourcers.

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Facebook’s arguments largely echo the claims made in the case of Daniel Motaung v Sama and Meta, which challenges union-busting and the appalling conditions at the same Nairobi hub. This January, another Kenyan judge rejected exactly the same arguments put forward by Facebook.

The legal block confirmed today that the injunction preventing Facebook or Sama from firing its workers is extended until the legality of the redundancy is determined.

It also stops Facebook switching suppliers to Majorel, because the case argues the switch is being carried out in a discriminatory way – with the companies effectively operating a ‘blacklist’ of all ex-Sama moderators as punishment for organising.

The next hearing in the case has been set for April 12, 2023.

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