Facebook has recently ended its contract with its African content moderation provider, Sama, due to reports of low pay and trauma for employees and alleged union-busting at Sama’s Nairobi office. The contract will now handled by a legal non-profit organization, the $2.2 billion European outsourcing firm Majorel, which investigates Big Tech companies.
Sama cited the “current economic climate” as the reason for the split. The company will also be laying off approximately 3% of its staff, mostly from Nairobi. It’s contract with Facebook’s parent company, Meta, was worth $3.9 million in 2022, as per internal Sama documents.
It is not the only legal issue Sama is currently facing. The company is also a co-defendant, along with Meta, in a Kenyan lawsuit brought by a former content moderator, Daniel Motaung. He claims that both companies have violated multiple aspects of the Kenyan constitution. A decision on whether the Nairobi court has jurisdiction to continue hearing the case against Meta is set for February 6th, with Facebook arguing that the case should not proceed as it does not conduct business in Kenya.
Sama’s content moderation teams in Nairobi were also responsible for moderating content in Ethiopia, where Facebook has faced criticism for its lack of efforts to stop the spread of inciteful content during a violent civil conflict. The change in providers raises questions about the treatment of content moderators. Fox Glove argues that the new provider Majorel is no better than Sama in terms of its treatment of moderators, which highlights the persistent issues within the content moderation industry.
Content moderators are frequently required to work long shifts, reviewing graphic and disturbing content such as child abuse material and videos of violent accidents and executions. These long shifts often lack sufficient support for the mental well-being of the workers. It is not a problem specific to Facebook, but also faced by other major social media platforms such as YouTube, TikTok and Reddit.
While the “current economic climate” may have played a role in Facebook’s decision to end its contract with Sama, it also brings attention to the persistent problems related to the treatment of content moderators and the necessity for improved support for their mental well-being. It remains uncertain if the new provider, Majorel, will take steps to address these issues and create a more favorable working environment for content moderators.