Daniel Motaung launches world-first case to force Facebook to finally put content moderators’ health and wellbeing ahead of cash

Facebook whistleblower Daniel Motaung has formally launched his case against the tech giant – and their outsourcing company Sama – aiming to end their exploitation and union-busting of content moderators in Kenya. 

This is a big deal and has been a long time coming. Foxglove has been working with Facebook content moderators since 2019 to help get their stories out into the world and fight for a fairer workplace. For us, this is a milestone that’s taken three years’ work.

Lead counsel in Nairobi is Mercy Mutemi, of Nzili and Sumbi Advocates. We couldn’t have found a better partner to be working with on this case.

Daniel’s lawsuit is a world-first. It calls on the Kenyan court to force Facebook and Sama to, for the first time, make specific changes in their Nairobi content moderation office to put the health and wellbeing of their workers above wringing a profit out of them. 

If successful, it will create a precedent for the rest of the world where the courts of a country have forced Facebook to *finally* take action to clean up its factory floor and stymie a business model based on sacrificing the mental health of content moderators for cold, hard cash.

This case would not be possible without the incredible reporting of TIME journalist Billy Perrigo, whose shocking front-page report first revealed Daniel’s story to the world. And of course, neither would it be possible without the extraordinary courage and resilience of Daniel himself.

For context, the Nairobi hub is a major centre for moderation of content in the newsfeeds of Facebook’s users in much of south and east Africa.

The changes Daniel’s case asks the court to enforce include:

  • Facebook would have to bring in mental health support for outsourced content moderators equivalent to the system in place for Facebook’s directly employed workers, as well as an equivalent pay scale. 
  • Facebook and Sama must end their illegal union-busting activity, publicly acknowledge moderators’ right to form a union and post physical notices in the workplace making this clear.
  • Facebook and Sama must appoint an independent human rights and psychological care consultants to conduct an internal audit of the Nairobi office to report to the court within 30 days with recommendations on how to end the toxic working environment.
  • Facebook and Sama must pay wages that were unlawfully kept from content moderators, as well as pay each former and existing moderator damages and provide funds for them to find and pay for mental health support.

The papers filed today ask the court to recognise that the working conditions in the Nairobi office violate Kenya’s constitution and cannot continue. Under Kenyan law, these conditions amount to forced labour and modern slavery. 

That’s what this case is about – and why we’ve been working towards it since we got started. Thanks for supporting us along the way. 

You can donate to help fund Daniel’s case by hitting the link below.