Meta and Sama back down on attempts to gag South African whistleblower Daniel Motaung
In a significant win for the protection of tech company whistleblowers, Meta and Facebook’s African contractor Sama have confirmed they do not plan to pursue a gag order against Daniel Motaung.
Meta’s decision to back down on its request to a Kenyan judge last month to issue a gag order and contempt of court proceedings against Daniel Motaung follows massive public backlash against the companies over the case. An open letter published last week was signed by more than 80 organisations, including international trade unions, lawyers, writers and campaigners from 20 countries.
Responding to reports that Sama and Meta are dropping their gag request, Daniel Motaung said “I brought this case to win fair conditions for content moderators everywhere. I speak about what happened to me not just for me, but for all of us.
“I am deeply moved to see trade unions and rights groups around the world join our struggle. Your support is a weight off my shoulders. Thank you. Together, we will see justice done.”
Cori Crider from Foxglove, a legal NGO based in the U.K. who is supporting Daniel Motaung and who were also named in the original gag request, added “It’s not always easy taking on the world’s biggest companies. We want to thank every one of the signatories who stood up for Daniel’s right to speak his truth – and for Foxglove.
“We have always believed that transforming the dangerous conditions in which moderators work could help fix what’s broken about social media. This is an issue that concerns us all. Thank you for seeing that, and for your solidarity. The fight’s not over, but with your help, we’re so much stronger.”
South African Motaung was a content moderator in Kenya, where he was forced to view horrific content including beheadings and child sexual exploitation, on a pay of $2.20 per hour. When he tried to lead his colleagues in a unionisation effort seeking better pay and working conditions, including mental health support for workers exposed to deadly content, he was fired. In response, Motaung is suing Meta and Sama in the Kenyan courts, arguing that he and his former colleagues are victims of forced labor, human trafficking and union-busting.
Meta and Sama subsequently sought to impose a gagging order on Motaung and Foxglove. Confirmation that the companies’ bid for a gag has now been dropped is a big win for advocacy and underscores the importance of accountability for the treatment of workers employed by Meta’s contractors around the globe.