A former Facebook moderator in Kenya has accused Meta of human trafficking

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A former Facebook moderator in Kenya has accused Meta of human trafficking
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • Daniel Motaung, a former Facebook moderator, filed a lawsuit against Meta in Kenya on Tuesday.
  • The lawsuit accuses Meta and a contractor of human trafficking and union busting.
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A man who worked as a Facebook moderator in Kenya is suing the platform's parent company, Meta, accusing it of human trafficking, forced labor, and union busting.

Daniel Motaung, a former Facebook moderator whose experience was the subject of a February report by Time magazine, was employed by Sama, a San Francisco tech-outsourcing firm that Facebook had contracted to conduct content moderation.

Motaung's accusations against Meta and Sama were included in a petition filed Tuesday with Kenya's Employment and Labor Relations Court and shared with Insider.

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Motaung, who moved from his native South Africa to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi to work for Sama, said in an affidavit attached to his petition that he was not told during the recruitment process that he would be working for Facebook or that his job would entail viewing graphic and disturbing content.

Motaung has said he had to view images and videos of beheadings and child sexual abuse as part of his job. Motaung's petition says he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Motaung's lawsuit also says job ads were "designed to trick unsuspecting applicants into unknowingly becoming Facebook Content Moderators."

The lawsuit says this amounts to human trafficking under Kenyan law.

In a statement provided to Insider by Foxglove, a London nonprofit supporting Motaung's case, Motaung said, "When I first applied to the advert for this job, I was straight out of university and on a mission to lift myself and my family out of poverty."

He added, "Six months later, my physical and mental health had been destroyed."

Motaung said that he tried to start an employee union as the result of the traumatic content that moderators had to watch and that he was fired because of his union activities.

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"Mark Zuckerberg and his cronies at firms like Sama cannot be allowed to treat people like this," Motaung said. "That's why I'm doing this. We are not animals. We are people — and we deserve to be treated as such."

The lawsuit asks that Meta and Sama implement mental-health support for moderators and pay them the same wages as full-time Facebook employees.

The Time report cited pay slips showing that Sama paid moderators the equivalent of about $2.20 an hour.

Motaung's lawsuit also demands unspecified compensation for former and current content moderators in Kenya.

A Meta spokesperson told Insider the company would not comment on ongoing legal claims.

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"We take our responsibility to the people who review content for Meta seriously and require our partners to provide industry-leading pay, benefits and support," the spokesperson said.

"We also encourage content reviewers to raise issues when they become aware of them and regularly conduct independent audits to ensure our partners are meeting the high standards we expect of them," they added.

Sama did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. In Time's February report it denied accusations of union busting and exploitation.

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