Meta is preparing for a legal fight in a Kenyan court.
- A Kenyan court decides whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case against Meta, brought by Daniel Motaung.
- Motaung is a former employee of Sama, a Kenya-based company that moderates content on behalf of Facebook.
- He alleges that his working conditions caused him to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- The case will resume on September 22, 2022.
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The first test of Daniel Motaung’s lawsuit against Meta, the owners of Facebook, will be when a Kenyan court decides whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case against the group.
Motaung, a South African and former employee of Sama, a Kenya-based company that moderates content on behalf of Facebook, is suing Sama and Meta. He alleges that his working conditions caused him to contract post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the type of content he moderated.
He also alleges that they tried to frustrate his attempts to organize the workers into a union.
The case, which is being heard in the Nairobi Employment and Labor Relations Tribunal, is far-reaching as it has the potential to bring to the fore the issue of working conditions for content moderators, says Phumzile van Damme, a former DA MP. and an anti-disinformation activist.
“It will lift the lid on content moderation and how badly the staff are being treated doing this work.”
Meta’s treatment of content moderators has become a controversial topic for the social media group. Moderators said they were traumatized by some of the content they asked to judge and accused Meta of not doing enough to help them.
Moderators in the US managed to convince Meta to move in with them in 2021, when they got the company to agree to pay 10,000 of them $85 million. The group did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
Do not “operate” in Kenya but pay taxes there
For now, Meta has avoided commenting on the merits of the case.
In the legal proceedings and submissions, he only stated that as he is incorporated in Delaware, USA and Dublin, Ireland, Kenyan courts have no jurisdiction over him as he is “neither resident , neither domiciled nor traders in Kenya”.
He also noted that Meta does not have a “contractual relationship” with Motaung.
For their part, Motaung’s legal representatives maintain that Meta operates in Kenya, through its Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram platforms.
“People and institutions such as the Judiciary and the Parliament of Kenya, which are based in Kenya, use Facebook.”
They argue that not only do Meta’s platforms operate in Kenya, but they also derive revenue from advertisements aimed at Kenyans, which it says Meta acknowledges, as it pays taxes on it.
“Facebook pays a digital services tax to the government of Kenya for advertising revenue it derives from Kenya,” they state in court documents.
They also argue that because Facebook is engaged in content moderation in Kenya, the courts have jurisdiction.
It is going to be difficult
Will Motaung get what he wants in the Kenyan courts?
“It will be difficult,” says Lucien Pierce, director at PPM Avocats.
The first problem is that Kenyan courts tend to follow very closely what happens in British courts, which, on the other hand, are very conservative when it comes to ruling on issues such as jurisdiction.
Motaung’s lawyers will, in essence, have to convince the court that Meta has operations or assets in Kenya.
Besides skill, Pierce says Motaung will also have to prove a direct connection between him and Meta. With Sama as the intermediary between him and Meta, it will be a difficult affair.
Pierce says what Motaung is asking for is the equivalent of a security company hired to secure your home, the company appointing a guard to do that job, and then said guard holding you accountable for injuries he suffered on the job.
The courts will have to decide which decision on your part resulted in the goalkeeper’s injuries.
The case will resume on September 22, 2022.