Blow to Meta as High Court rules it can be sued in Kenya

For the second time this year, a Kenyan judge has rejected attempts by tech giant Meta to not answer to Kenyan justice over alleged unlawful layoffs of staff.

The High Court on Thursday ruled that the Facebook parent company could be sued in Kenya after 43 moderators at its Nairobi office filed a lawsuit against the company for unfair termination

In January 2023, executives told all 260 moderators at Facebook’s moderation hub in Sama Nairobi that they were being made redundant and would lose their jobs. It then surfaced that the positions were not, in fact, redundant but that Facebook was merely switching suppliers to another outsourcer, Majorel.

Recruiters also allegedly told the existing moderators that they were effectively blacklisted from applying for the new roles – a move the moderators say amounts to an unlawful blacklist of moderators and is punishment for organising.

A large group of them sued and won an interim order blocking the layoffs in March.

In response, Facebook made a similar argument to one it had previously made in another pending moderator case – brought by union leader Daniel Motaung – saying it lacked a registered office in Kenya, did not trade in Kenya, and therefore could not be subject to Kenyan jurisdiction at all.

Today’s ruling rejects Facebook’s argument.

The court found that Facebook was properly served and: “have rightly been placed within the territorial jurisdiction of the Court.” It said the extent to which Facebook is the true employer of content moderators it hires through outsourcing firms, such as Sama or Majorel, is a question of fact that can only be determined at a full trial of the issues.

It ordered that the full trial challenging the layoff should be listed as a priority – and kept in place its legal ban on Facebook taking any further steps to sack these Sama moderators or move supplier to Majorel.

Trevin Brownie, a content moderator in the petitionsaid“We are so happy about today’s ruling. Facebook terrified those of us with families to support that we will be thrown away with no future.

“Content moderation shouldn’t be used to try and make huge profits for Facebook – they should be treated like law enforcement. You don’t hire police to try and make money – you hire them to stop crimes. It’s the same with content moderation.

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