Kenya judge finds Meta is not in contempt of court

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Meta Platforms' business group is seen in Brussels, Belgium December 6, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman//File Photo

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A Kenyan judge on Thursday found Facebook's parent company Meta was not in contempt of court for failing to pay dozens of content moderators that a contractor laid off.

Labour judge Mathews Nduma Nderi said Meta did not "deliberately and contemptuously" breach a court order requiring it to pay the wages of hundreds of Facebook content moderators.

"They did various things which they thought were lawful in trying to deal with their situation but we did not find that what they did amounted to contempt," Nderi said.

Earlier this year, 184 moderators sued Meta and two contractors after they said they lost their jobs with one of the firms, Sama, for organising a union.

The plaintiffs alleged they were then blacklisted from applying for the same roles at the second firm, Majorel, after Facebook changed contractors. Out-of-court settlement talks collapsed in October.

A Meta spokesman declined to comment. Sama and Majorel did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

Meta has previously responded to allegations of a poor working environment in Kenya by saying it requires partners to provide industry-leading conditions.

Sama has said it has always followed Kenyan law and provided mental health services to its employees. Majorel has said it does not comment on pending or active litigation.

Nderi accepted a request by the plaintiffs' lawyer Merci Mutemi to be given 45 days to amend the contempt of court petition, and said that unless the matter was resolved out of court, the case would be given priority for the court to determine its merits.

British tech rights group Foxglove, which is supporting the plaintiffs, said it was eager to bring the case to trial.

"We remain confident of our case overall, as we have prevailed on every substantive point so far," Foxglove director Martha Dark said in a statement to Reuters. "The most important ruling remains the one we won in June: Meta can no longer hide behind outsourcers to excuse the exploitation and abuse of its content moderators."

(Reporting by Humphrey Malalo and Hereward Holland; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Aaron Ross and Barbara Lewis)

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