Occurred: February 2022
Sama is a California-based self-styled 'ethical AI' company that provides data labeling and content moderation services to Facebook parent-company Meta, Google, Walmart, and other organisations.
Facebook content moderation, low pay, union-busting
A February 2022 TIME investigation revealed low pay, poor working conditions and alleged union-busting at Sama's office in Nairobi, Kenya for its team moderating content for Facebook.
TIME found that Kenyan employees for Sama receive a take-home wage equivalent to around USD 1.46 per hour after tax, had to work up to nine hours per day, are continuously monitored, and are measured against metrics for average time spent and quality. The metrics contradict public statements by Facebook about not setting expectations on its contractors.
According to TIME, at least two Sama content moderators resigned after being diagnosed with mental illnesses including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. Former employee and whistleblower Daniel Motaung told TIME he had been unlawfuly fired for leading over 100 Sama workers in an attempted strike that aimed to secure better pay for staff.
In a blog post responding to TIME's investigation, Sama claimed its rate of pay was fair, arguing 'the article falsely alleges that Sama does not compensate its employees fairly'. Two weeks later the company said it would increase salaries by 30% to 50%.
Meta avoided commenting on Sama employment practices, and has not made public its audits of Sama's Kenya office. Sama reputedly failed to confirm rumours that its managers had attempted to suppress unionisation efforts at its operation in Kenya in 2019.
OpenAI de-toxification, low pay
According to Perrigo, 'the work’s traumatic nature eventually led Sama to cancel all its work for OpenAI in February 2022, eight months earlier than planned.'
Unfair termination lawsuit
In May 2023, a judge ruled that Meta could be sued in Kenya after 43 moderators at its Nairobi hub filed a lawsuit against the group and Sama for unfair termination.
Operator: Alphabet/Google; Meta/Facebook; Microsoft; OpenAI; Tesla; Walmart
Developer: Sama AI/Samasource
Sector: Business/professional services
Purpose: Label data; Moderate content
Technology: Data labeling system; Content moderation system
Issue: Employment - pay, jobs, working conditions, unionisation
Transparency: Governance; Marketing - misleading
Sama (2022). What TIME got wrong
The Signals Network (2022). TIME’s revelations on Facebook content moderation made possible by whistleblower support