Kenyan court says it can hear case filed against Facebook's Meta

Thursday April 20 2023
Kenyan judge Mathews Nduma Nderi

Kenyan judge Mathews Nduma Nderi of the Employment and Labour Relations Court who on April 20, 2023 ruled that the court has jurisdiction to hear a case file by nearly 200 people who say they were unlawfully sacked by a subcontractor for Facebook's parent company Meta. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG



A court in Kenya ruled Thursday that it has the jurisdiction to hear a challenge by nearly 200 people who say they were unlawfully sacked by a subcontractor for Facebook's parent company Meta.

The case brought by 183 content moderators employed in Nairobi by Sama, a subcontractor for Meta, was filed on March 17 in a local court, with the workers claiming "unlawful" dismissal by the social media giant.

Meta's lawyers say the company — which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp — cannot be sued, arguing the Employment and Labour Relations Court has no jurisdiction to rule against an entity that isn't based in Kenya.

It also says the complainants are not employed by Meta itself.

But Judge Mathews Nduma Nderi from the labour relations court disagreed.


Court has jurisdiction

"The Court finds that this Court has jurisdiction to determine the matter of alleged unlawful and unfair termination of employment," the judge said in a ruling seen by AFP.

He also upheld an interim order handed down on March 21 suspending the decision to fire the subcontractors.

Meta has not replied to AFP requests for comment.

The layoffs, announced in January to take effect from end March, came after the ending of a contract between Meta and Sama, a company hired to moderate Facebook content in east and southern Africa since 2019.

Another company, Majorel, was handed the contract and has also been accused of prejudice in this case.

In their complaint, seen by AFP, the employees said their dismissal was "unlawful as it is without justification and is procedurally unfair".

They also claimed discrimination by Meta and Majorel, saying Sama employees who tried to get rehired by the new subcontractor had their applications blocked.

Two other cases

Meta faces two other legal cases in Kenya.

In 2022, a former South African employee of Sama, Daniel Motaung, filed a complaint in Kenya against Sama and Facebook claiming, among other things, poor working conditions and lack of mental health support.

The labour relations court in Nairobi declared it had the jurisdiction to try Motaung's case in February. Meta has appealed the decision.

The social media giant is also facing another complaint in Kenya, where a local NGO and two Ethiopian citizens accused Meta of failing to act against online hate speech in Africa.

The complainants alleged this inaction resulted in the murder of a university professor in Ethiopia and called for the creation of a $1.6 billion fund to compensate the victims. 

AFP is involved in a partnership with Meta providing fact-checking services in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa.