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Silent Heroes: Demanding Better Working Conditions for Content Moderators

By Seliphar Machoni

Every Kenyan worker advocates for a conducive working environment and better payment of salaries and social media content moderators are not an exception.

More than 184 social media content moderators working for big tech companies like Samasource and Meta in Kenya are fighting for their rights, demanding better pay and better protection.

Social media content moderators are people who sieve, filter and check information that is posted on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp and ChatGPT.

One of the content moderators based in Nairobi, Kenya, Trevin Brownie, said that for more than three years he had to sieve lots of disturbing content as a Facebook content moderator, ranging from suicidal videos to terrifying images. He is among the former employees of Samasource who were unlawfully laid off without being paid the wages they were owed.

“We take off any information from abusive content that violates policies such as bullying and harassment, hate speech, or violent content like suicide.” Brownie said in one of the radio interviews

Despite the mentally disturbing nature of their job, Kenyan-based social media content moderators working under Samasource, Meta and other big tech companies complain that these companies took advantage of them. They underpaid them, no mental health support compared to other social media content moderators in other countries.

They explained that the nature of their job has severely damaged their mental health and post-traumatic stress syndrome has become one of the side effects most of the content moderators in the industry have to live with.

“Watching traumatic, disturbing suicidal videos has made most of us senseless when it comes to emotions or feelings towards death.” He said

After presenting their allegations, Sama, in its statement, refuted the moderators’ union allegations of busting and underpaying their staff. “We recognise how tough the content moderators’ job is and we have paid higher wages for experts living in the country.”

Content moderators complained of unlawful deductions that were made by the company that led to underpayment without proper explanation. These forced content moderators to fight for their rights as workers by filing petitions in court against Samasource and Meta big tech companies for exploitation.

This caught the attention of Siasa Place, a non-governmental organization that advocates for equal rights for all workers and fair treatment of employees.

In its statement, Siasa Place was deeply concerned with the recent revelation revolving around Samasource Company’s non-remittance of statutory deductions to KRA from its employees in the period in which they worked for the company.

“Samasource’s actions are a textbook definition of impunity. As Siasa Place, we strongly believe in the importance of tax compliance and fair treatment of employees.” It said

Siasa Place went further to condemn unlawful acts done by multinational companies like Samasource against its employees in African countries.

“It is disheartening to witness such brilliant disregard for these principles by a multinational company operating within our borders and directly affecting the lives of young people. We firmly believe that no company should be exempted from fulfilling its legal obligations and that all employees should receive their entitlements in a timely and transparent manner.” It said

Siasa Place called upon Kenya Revenue Authorities to investigate and conduct a thorough inquiry into Samasource Company’s non-remittance of statutory deductions and other unlawful acts conducted by the company and determine the extent of the violation and appropriate legal measures to be taken against Samasource.

It urged the media to prioritize investigative journalism to unmask unlawful acts done by big tech companies like Samasource and bring the matter to public attention.

“We call upon all media houses and journalists in Kenya to investigate the matter and create awareness about Samasource’s violation of the statutory deductions act, thereby amplifying the voices of the affected employees.”

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