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A Look into Facebook’s African Sweatshop

By: Virginia Riddle

Sama, a company that works for Facebook, one of the most popular social media outlets in the world (and owned by Meta Platforms), has been accused of mentally torturing their employees and severely underpaying them for their “work”.

Sama serves as a way for Facebook to monitor content in the general platform. However, this means that the 200 workers in the slum outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya have to stay at their computers, where they watch videos of murder, rape, suicide, and the sexual assault of minors.

These workers are essentially content first-responders; they are the first to view any banned of illegal content before it can reach the eyes of the general public.

Some of the testimonies from the workers involved are:

“The work that we do is a kind of mental torture,” a Facebook content moderator told Time.

“Whatever I am living on is hand-to-mouth. I can’t save a cent. Sometimes I feel I want to resign. But then I ask myself: what will my baby eat?”

The wages paid by Sama have been accused of being far too low, with some workers making as little as $1.50 an hour. In 2018 these wages were defended by the company’s founder, Leila Janah, who said that “One thing that’s critical in our line of work is to not pay wages that would distort local labor markets… If we were to pay people substantially more than that, we would throw everything off.”

In an interview with Time magazine, almost every employee of Sama admitted to feeling emotionally affected due to the content that they had to watch to keep their jobs.

The psychological and economic repercussions of this workplace are especially relevant due to the fact that Sama markets itself as a “long-standing work we have done to create an ethical AI supply chain.”

The mission statement of the company reads, “Sama is an American nonprofit that seeks to alleviate poverty by connecting workers in developing countries with work opportunities via the Internet.” The company further describes themselves by saying, “Our industry-leading services help our clients achieve their business goals, while radically altering the life trajectory of our workers, who earn a living wage and lift themselves out of poverty.”

The company has not made public its relationship with Facebook, even when being hired by other big-name companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Walmart. In the end, it was the workers testimonies that uncovered the horrifying truths behind Sama’s work.

Image Credit: TIME

Categories: Featured, Pop Culture, STEM

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