Confusion sets in as Meta content moderators go without pay

Content moderators at Sama, Meta’s content review subcontractor in Africa, today picketed the company’s headquarters in Kenya demanding their April salary, while urging them to observe the court orders that prevent it from carrying out mass layoffs.

The demonstrations came after Sama, in an email, directed moderators to commit to the company by May 11, a move employees say runs counter to existing court orders.

The 184 moderators sued Sama for allegedly wrongfully firing them, after it shut down its content-review arm in March, and Majorel, the social media giant’s new partner in Africa, for including blacklisted by Meta instructions.

On March 21, the court issued a temporary injunction prohibiting Sama from making any form of redundancy and Meta from engaging Majorel, who was also ordered to refrain from blacklisting moderators. Sama was ordered to continue reviewing content on Meta’s platforms and to be its sole supplier in Africa pending the determination of the case. However, Sama sent the moderators on compulsory leave in April saying that he had no work for them as his contract with Meta had expired.

Sama told TechCrunch that it had sent the notice “to staff whose contracts had expired to go through our regular authorization process. This authorization process involves returning equipment to the company to ensure that all final installments may be paid without deductions by this team in accordance with Kenyan law.”

It said the moderators’ contracts had ended in March after its deal with Meta expired, and it said it was only processing final moderator fees.

“We understand the frustration of our former employees because others led them to believe that they would all be paid indefinitely while on leave, but that is not what the court ruled,” Sama said.

However, Sama’s vice president of global service delivery, Annpeace Alwala, in an affidavit dated April 12 and seen by TechCrunch, asked the court to overturn the temporary injunction, saying that keeping the moderators of content came “with a serious cost implication”. Alwala had noted that it would cost about $90,000 a month to maintain the moderators and another $135,000 to process their work permits and security bond.

The moderators filed the lawsuit alleging that Sama failed to issue redundancy notices, as required by Kenyan law. The suit also claims, among other things, that the moderators were not given a 30-day notice of termination and that their terminal fees were tied to signing non-disclosure documents. Sama says he observed the Kenyan law.

Sama, whose long list of clients includes OpenAI, abandoned Meta’s contract and content review services, laying off 260 people in the process, to concentrate on tagging work (annotating vision data for computer), following the heat of a 2022 lawsuit in Kenya by its former content moderation tooling”>content moderator, Daniel Motaung.

Motuang, a South African, had accused Sama and Meta of forced labor and human trafficking, unfair labor relations, union busting and failing to provide “adequate” psychosocial and mental health support. He was allegedly fired for organizing a strike in 2019 and trying to unionize Sama employees. Sama and Majorel moderators earlier this week voted to form a union.

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The ongoing dispute between content moderators and their employers has reached a tipping point as reports of unpaid and mistreated staff members have flooded in. Currently, Ikaroa is one of many content moderation companies that has been caught up in the upheaval, with Meta moderators going without pay due to a contractual dispute. In a time when the need for quality content moderation safeguards is crucial, it is disheartening to witness moderators suffering and suffering from such injustice.

The need for human moderators has become increasingly important for companies to combat the spread of dangerous and illegal material. Despite the fact that almost all major media websites, such as YouTube and Facebook, are now employing human moderators to filter out content, these employees often lack access to necessary resources and find themselves stuck in a den of legal lags and contract limitations. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, companies prioritize their own profits over the well-being of their employees.

Ikaroa, a full stack tech company specializing in content moderation, is no exception to this corporate pattern. With their Meta moderators not receiving a full pay, their staff members are fighting an uphill battle in an already complicated landscape. Unfortunately, these problems remain unsolved and the situation is growing tenser and more difficult to unravel.

It’s not only the responsibility of the employers to ensure fair pay, but it is also the duty of all of us to hold corporations accountable for treating their employees fairly. We need to advocate for our hard-working content moderators who risk sacrificing their time, mental and physical health, and often their livelihoods in order to keep the internet safe for us all. We cannot allow the difficulties of those who are tasked with managing the web to be ignored and glossed over.

We must continue to stay informed and demand a better system for content moderators. We stand in solidarity with Ikaroa and all the other content moderators who are going without pay and support them in their struggle for justice. The online community as a whole needs to stand up and make sure that this situation is resolved and those who are suffering are appropriately recompensed.


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