Sama 'ethical' data labeling, content moderation

Occurred: February 2022

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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.

London-based legal NGO Foxglove is preparing legal action in relation to Sama's alleged wrongful termination of Motaung.

OpenAI de-toxification, low pay

In January 2023, Time journalist Billy Perrigo revealed that OpenAI used Kenyan workers being paid less than USD 2 an hour to de-toxify ChatGPT.

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.'

Operator: Alphabet/Google; Meta/Facebook; Microsoft; OpenAI; Walmart
Sama AI/Samasource
Business/professional services
Label data; Moderate content
Technology: Data labeling system; Content moderation system
Employment - pay, jobs, working conditions, unionisation
Transparency: Governance; Marketing - misleading


Research, audits, invesigations, inquiries, litigation

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Published: March 2022
Last updated: January 2023