Meta watching moderator partner with ‘traumatic’ working conditions

11 months ago
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Meta cut links with a subcontractor that provided moderators for its African markets, just weeks before the tech giant is due to face a Kenyan court to stand trial allegations of human trafficking and union busting.

The company has ended its contract with the outsourcing company Sama, whose former employee Daniel Motaung accused last year about imposing “unreasonable working conditions,” including irregular pay, inadequate mental health support, and violations of workers’ privacy.

But conditions at a company that is willing to take on a meta contract seem just as bad, if not worse. Meta has not confirmed which company will take over the new contract, but Financial Times informed January 10 that it will likely be Majorel, a Luxembourg-based outsourcing company that already has content moderation contracts with Meta in Morocco and offices around the world.

“The work is traumatic and they give us peanuts,” a Majorel employee in Nairobi, who works as a content moderator at TikTok, told WIRED. They described long hours of viewing graphic content with beheadings, mutilations and suicides for a monthly salary of less than 35,000 KSh, or about $281. “We can’t even maintain our normal lives.”

The employee’s description of the conditions at Majorel was corroborated by other moderators working for the company and posts on private social media groups seen by WIRED.

TikTok and Meta moderators who worked with Majorel described viewing hundreds of potentially traumatic images a day with little support from advisors. TikTok moderators in Nairobi say that while performance bonuses are possible, they are hard to come by, and those who complained about working conditions felt they were denied promotions and bad reviews. Moderators in the Nairobi offices also complained that they did not receive monthly pay slips to verify their payment, instead being redirected to an online portal that was last updated in October.

Neither Meta nor Majorelle responded to requests for comment.

Majorel employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retaliation, told WIRED that Meta executives visited Majorel’s Nairobi office in mid-January and said the staff had been told that the company was entering into a contract with Meta.

Job postings on Fuzu.com, an African job posting platform, show that Majorel is currently hiring content moderators who speak Kirundi, Tigrinya, Oromo, Luganda, Kinyarwanda, Tswana, Afrikaans, Zulu, Amharic and Somali. Itself provided moderation for Meta in most of these languages.

While working conditions at Sama, a certified social enterprise, have been heavily criticized, the company paid moderators more than Majorel offers new hires, according to a person who was under contract to Meta and spoke to WIRED on condition of anonymity. Sama moderators were paid around 60,000 KSh ($483) per month, still making them one of the lowest paid workers in the Meta moderation networks.

2019 report from Verge found that content moderators in the US earn $15 an hour. On the contrary, Sama employees were paid $1.46 to $2.20 an hour. Previous reporting found that moderators in India earn about $2 an hour.

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