Meta cuts ties to a subcontractor that provided moderators for its African markets, just weeks before the tech giant is due to appear in a Kenyan court to face charges of human trafficking and union busting.
The company terminated its contract with outsourcing company Sama, which former employee Daniel Motaung accused last year of imposing “unreasonable working conditions” including irregular pay, inadequate mental health support and violations of workers’ privacy.
But conditions at the company poised to take over the Meta contract look just as bad, if not worse. Meta has not confirmed which company will take over the new contract, but Financial Times On January 10, it said it would 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 we’re being given peanuts,” one Majorel employee in Nairobi, who works as a content moderator on TikTok, told WIRED. They described long hours of watching graphic content featuring beheadings, mutilations and suicides for a monthly salary of less than 35,000 Kenyan shillings, or about $281. “We can’t even maintain a normal life.”
The employee’s description of conditions at Majorel was corroborated by other moderators who work for the company and by posts in private social media groups reviewed by WIRED.
TikTok and Meta moderators who worked with Majorel described viewing hundreds of potentially traumatic images a day with little support from counselors. TikTok moderators in Nairobi say that while performance bonuses are possible, they are hard to come by, and those who complained about working conditions believed they were denied promotions and received bad reviews. Moderators in the Nairobi offices have also complained that they do not receive monthly pay slips to confirm salary, instead being directed to an online portal that was last updated in October.
Neither Meta nor Mayorel 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 employees were told the company would take over Meta’s contract.
Job postings on Fuzu.com, a job posting platform in Africa, indicate that Majorel is currently hiring content moderators who speak Kirundi, Tigrinya, Oromo, Luganda, Kinyarwanda, Tswana, Afrikaans, Zulu, Amharic and Somali. Self-moderated Meta in most of these languages.
While working conditions at Sama, which is certified as a social enterprise, have been heavily criticized, the company paid moderators more than Majorel offers new hires, according to a person working under Meta’s contract who spoke to WIRED on condition of anonymity. Sama moderators were paid about 60,000 Kenyan shillings ($483) a month, still making them some of the poorest paid workers in the Meta moderation networks.
A 2019 Verge report found that US content moderators earn $15 an hour. In contrast, Sam’s employees were paid between $1.46 and $2.20 an hour. Previous reports indicated that moderators in India earned around $2 an hour.