Meta’s biggest African content moderator terminates contract

Eberechukwu Etike
Meta's content moderation provider, Sama to discontinue its services

Sama, Meta’s largest content moderation provider in Africa for policing harmful content on Meta’s platforms, has announced that it will be discontinuing its services for the tech giant and closing down its hub in the region by March of this year.

This announcement comes one year after a TIME expose of the alleged underground secrets reportedly occurring in Sama’s office in Nairobi, Kenya, and the inhumane treatment of its African contract staff.

However, according to the official statement, Sama is closing down its services because of the unfavourable economic climate. The company wants to focus solely on labelling works – computer vision data annotation. A Meta spokesperson confirmed the termination of the contract.

We respect Sama’s decision to exit the content review services it provides to social media platforms. We’ll work with our partners during this transition to ensure there’s no impact on our ability to review content.

The tech giant contracted the content moderation provider in 2017 to assist with data labelling and AI training. However, in the last two years, the Nairobi office has engaged in moderating and policing some of the most graphic and harmful material on Meta’s platforms.

Read Also: Former Facebook content moderator sues company over poor working conditions

Sama and Meta’s accusations

Meta and Sama, the sub-contractor, have faced many legal issues with their content moderation policies, the workplace culture, and the negligence of employees’ mental health.

In 2021, Sama was sued by a former employee, Daniel Motaung, who accused both companies of neglecting the mental health support for moderators and of not informing them of the nature of the job. The companies also were sued for multiple violations of the Kenyan constitution by different activist groups.

In 2022, the parent company of Facebook, Meta, was sued for $2 billion in Kenya’s High Court for allegedly encouraging hate speech, inciting ethnic conflict, and failing to moderate content in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Other legal activist groups, including whistleblower Frances Haugen have accused Facebook of negligence in identifying and removing hate speech in Ethiopia.

Read Also: Meta sued over $2 billion for fueling ethnic violence in Ethiopia

What about the staff?

Despite Sama’s new decision, about 1,500 of its staff will be employed by Meta to work with the new third-party contractor for data labelling, leaving around 200 of the remaining staff jobless. If we recall, the tech giant laid off over 11,000 staff in the last quarter of 2022.

According to the Times, quoting Sama’s statement, for those employees affected, Sama will be offering several support programs for 12 months after their last day of employment and severance packages.

Who will take over the content moderation?

According to reports, Luxembourg-based Majorel will take on the contract. The firm has already led moderation services in Africa for the short-form video app TikTok.

However, Cori Crider, the co-director of Foxglove, a legal NGO supporting Motaung’s lawsuit against Meta and Sama, told The Times that the firm that might be taking over Sama’s contract with Meta has worse conditions for staff.

She said there’s no proper mental health support, and base pay looks to be about half of even Sama’s poor wages. However, Meta has not made any comments about Majorel taking over the content moderation duties,

Related: Can we solve workplace improprieties in the Nigerian tech industry?

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