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Facebook Sued by Former Content Moderator Over Forced Unsafe Job Conditions in Kenya

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A man who says he is “destroyed” after working as a content moderator for Facebook has filed a lawsuit accusing the company of human trafficking Africans to work in an exploitative and unsafe facility in Kenya.

The case against Meta Platforms, the Menlo Park, Calif. company that owns Facebook, and Sama, a San Francisco subcontractor, was lodged Tuesday with a court in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Daniel Motaung’s petition “calls upon Kenya’s courts to order Facebook and its outsourcing companies to end exploitation in its Nairobi moderation hub, where content moderators work in dangerous conditions,” said a statement by Foxglove, a London-based legal nonprofit that supports Facebook content moderators.

The first video Motaung watched as a Facebook moderator was a video of someone being beheaded, he told reporters during a call Tuesday. He stayed on the job for roughly six months, after relocating from South Africa to Nairobi in 2019 for the work. Motaung says he was dismissed after trying to spearhead efforts to unionise at the facility.

Motaung said his job was traumatising and he now has a fear of death.

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“I had potential,” Motaung said. “When I went to Kenya, I went to Kenya because I wanted to change my life. I wanted to change the life of my family. I came out a different person, a person who has been destroyed.”

Motaung says in his filing that once he arrived in Kenya for that work, he was told to sign a non-disclosure agreement and his pay was less than promised, with one monthly paycheck that was KES 40,000, or roughly $350 (roughly Rs. 27,000).

The lawsuit notes that Sama targets people from poor families across Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda and other countries in the region with “misleading job ads” that fail to disclose that they will be working as Facebook content moderators or viewing disturbing content that expose them to mental health woes.

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Applicants are recruited “through deceit,” said Mercy Mutemi, who filed the petition in court Tuesday morning. “We found a lot of Africans were forced into force labour situations and human trafficking. When you leave your country for a job that you didn’t apply for, that amounts to human trafficking.”

Content moderators are not given enough medical coverage to seek mental health treatment, the filing alleges.

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The lawsuit also seeks orders for Facebook and Sama to respect moderators’ right to unionise.

Meta’s office in Nairobi said it takes seriously its responsibility to people who review content for the company and requires its “partners to provide industry-leading pay, benefits and support,” according to a statement issued by the company’s spokeswoman.

”We also encourage content reviewers to raise issues when they become aware of them and regularly conduct independent audits to ensure our partners are meeting the high standards we expect of them,” the statement said.

In 2020, Facebook agreed to pay $52 million (roughly Rs. 401 crore) to US content moderators who filed a class action lawsuit after they were repeatedly exposed to beheadings, child and sexual abuse, animal cruelty, terrorism and other disturbing content.

Sama, which describes itself as an ethical AI company, did not immediately provide comment.

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Sama’s Nairobi location is the largest content moderation facility in Africa, with approximately 240 employees working on the effort, according to the filing.

“We are not animals,” Motaung said in the statement. “We are people — and we deserve to be treated as such.”


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Twitter Users May Witness Dip in Followers as Elon Musk Has New Plans for Spams

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If you witness a drop in your follower count on Twitter, then fret not. Twitter’s new boss Elon Musk is working on “purging a lot” of spam/scam accounts. On Thursday, Musk took to his Twitter account and shared the particular update with everyone.

He tweeted, “Twitter is purging a lot of spam/scam accounts right now, so you may see your follower count drop.”

Twitter is purging a lot of spam/scam accounts right now, so you may see your follower count drop

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 1, 2022

Musk is also planning to up Twitter’s character limit from 280 to 1000.

A few days ago, a social media user tagged Musk and tweeted, ” Idea on expanding character limit to 1000.”

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In response, Musk wrote, “It’s on the to-do list.”

The character limit has been one of the prime differences between Twitter and other social media services. Musk has shown interest in the idea of increasing the character limit on a number of occasions since his takeover of the platform, as per a report by Mashable. On November 27, a Twitter user suggested to Musk to increase the platform’s word limit from 280 to 420.

“Good idea” Musk wrote in response. Prior to that, another user had suggested: “get rid of character limits.”

“Absolutely”, the multi-billionaire responded.

Now, we have to wait and see when Musk finally makes the changes regarding the character limit.

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Another change announced by Tesla CEO Musk for the microblogging site is the inclusion of a multi-coloured verification system. As per Musk’s plans, Twitter will introduce a new three-coloured verification checkmark system which will replace the previous ‘Twitter Blue’ service. The new Twitter Blue verification service will tentatively be relaunched on December 2, according to Musk.

Last month, Musk stated that the new user signups to the social media platform have reached an “all-time high”, while the billionaire struggles with a mass exodus of advertisers and users fleeing to other platforms. Musk, in his tweet, mentioned that the signups on the microblogging site have reached an average of over two million per day as of November 16.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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WhatsApp Bans Over 23 Lakh Accounts in India in October, ‘Proactively’ Barred 8.1 Lakh Users

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Instant messaging and voice-over-IP service WhatsApp on Wednesday said the firm banned over 23 lakh accounts in the month of October, according to a spokesperson of WhatsApp. In another statement, it said as many as 811,000 of these 23 lakh accounts were proactively banned, before any reports from users.

A WhatsApp spokesperson in a statement said, “WhatsApp is an industry leader in preventing abuse, among end-to-end encrypted messaging services. Over the years, we have consistently invested in Artificial Intelligence and other state-of-the-art technology, data scientists and experts, and in processes, in order to keep our users safe on our platform.”

The spokesperson said, “In accordance with the IT Rules 2021, we’ve published our report for the month of October 2022. This user-safety report contains details of the user complaints received and the corresponding action taken by WhatsApp, as well as WhatsApp’s own preventive actions to combat abuse on our platform.”

As captured in the latest monthly report, WhatsApp banned over 23 lakh million accounts in the month of October, according to the spokesperson.

In a statement released by the firm, 26,85,000 WhatsApp accounts were banned from the instant messaging service between September 1 and 30 this year. As many as 872,000 of these accounts were proactively banned, before any reports from users.

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According to the firm’s statement, in addition to responding to and taking action on user complaints through the grievance channel, WhatsApp also deployed tools and resources to prevent harmful behaviour on the platform. It said, “We are particularly focused on prevention because we believe it is much better to stop harmful activity from happening in the first place than to detect it after harm has occurred.”

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It said the abuse detection operates at three stages of an account’s lifestyle: At registration, during messaging, and in response to negative feedback, which we receive in the form of user reports and blocks.

The statement from WhatsApp said a team of analysts augments these systems to evaluate edge cases and help improve our effectiveness over time.


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Mark Zuckerberg Calls Apple’s App Store Moderation Rules a ‘Conflict of Interest’

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Meta Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said that Apple’s App Store presents a conflict of interest, adding his voice to a flurry of criticism of the iPhone maker’s software policies. “It is problematic for one company to be able to control what app experiences end up on a device,” Zuckerberg said Wednesday in an interview at the New York Times DealBook conference. The “vast majority of profits in mobile ecosystem go toward Apple,” he added.

App Store policies and fees implemented by Apple, and to a lesser extent Google parent Alphabet, have long been a point of contention for technology companies looking to reach broad mobile audiences. Billionaire Elon Musk added to the chorus after his acquisition of Twitter, sending a flurry of tweets this week denouncing Apple’s fees and restrictions on what apps can be sold.

Zuckerberg echoed some of Musk’s points. He called Apple’s content moderation rules for apps a “conflict of interest” since they are often pointed at rivals. It makes Apple “not just a governor looking out for people’s interests.” Revenue at Meta, which owns social networks Facebook and Instagram, has taken a hit since Apple tightened its privacy policies to restrict how users can be tracked and targeted with advertising.

Though Zuckerberg seemed to back up his objection to Apple’s policies, Musk on Wednesday walked back some of his criticism of the iPhone maker, saying he met with CEO Tim Cook at the company’s headquarters and had a “good conversation” that resolved a “misunderstanding” about Twitter’s place in the App Store.

As for Musk’s approach to running Twitter, Zuckerberg hedged his comments — he said he guesses that some approaches will work and others won’t. “I think it’ll be very interesting to see how this plays out,” he said.

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On whether Meta would allow former US President Donald Trump back onto Facebook, Zuckerberg didn’t answer, but pointed to prior guidance the company has gotten from its external Oversight Board, weighing in on difficult content decisions. Meta is expected to make a decision in January.

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Wall Street has become increasingly bearish on Meta’s investment in its money-losing virtual reality business amid slowing ad revenue. Earlier this month, Zuckerberg said the company would slash more than 11,000 jobs, and took personal responsibility for decisions that led to the need to cut costs. In April, Meta reported its first-ever quarterly revenue drop.

The interview Wednesday began with a recorded conversation between Zuckerberg and the moderator as avatars in the immersive digital world the company calls the metaverse. Still, Zuckerberg said the idea that Meta is wholly focused on the metaverse is “basically wrong.” Messaging program WhatsApp will be his next major monetization target, he said, as that platform is “largely untapped.”

He cited progress in Reels, the company’s short video feature, saying some estimates show it has half the traffic of viral video-sharing app TikTok outside of China.

Zuckerberg also raised the issue of TikTok’s ownership by Beijing-based ByteDance, adding that there are “real questions” about the influence of China’s government on TikTok. “In a lot of countries, all data goes to the government,” the CEO said.

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© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.


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