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Stop Facebook from Silencing Whistleblower Daniel Motaung

Over 80 organisations demand that Meta drop bid to gag South African human rights defender and whistleblower Daniel Motaung

Days after Meta published its first human rights report, an international coalition of more than 80 organisations is demanding the company respect South African human rights defender and whistleblower Daniel Motaung. In an open letter published today, they demand Meta and Facebook content moderation outsourcing company Sama immediately cease all attempts to silence Daniel Motaung.

Meta’s most high profile whistleblower Frances Haugen is also a signatory.

The letter reads:

Dear Mr Zuckerberg and Ms Gonzalez,

We are writing to you as more than 80 organizations, lawyers and citizens from around the world to demand that you drop all attempts to silence whistleblower Daniel Motaung and to crush his efforts to improve labor conditions for Facebook content moderators in Kenya and around the world.

Daniel is a human rights defender. He has the right to express himself freely under international human rights law and within the Kenyan constitution, as well as the right to seek justice for the abuses he and his colleagues say they experienced at your hands – working as Facebook content moderators for Meta’s Kenyan outsourcing partner Sama. It is on this basis that he is taking your companies to court, alleging that he and his former colleagues are victims of forced labor, human trafficking and union-busting.

But rather than engage with and learn from his story, your companies are aggressively attempting to silence Daniel, as well as Foxglove, the legal NGO supporting him, with a gag order and contempt of court proceedings. Your lawyers have even asked a judge to “crack the whip” against Daniel, a frontline worker who suffers post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the work he did for you and for which he was earning just $2.20 per hour. It appears Meta and Sama would rather shut Daniel up than meaningfully address his allegations.

Daniel and the hundreds of colleagues who he is standing up for are an integral part of Facebook’s global workforce. Their relentless work sifting through the most toxic and harmful content on the platform, including beheadings and child abuse, hour after hour, day upon day, is what keeps the company in business. Their experiences should be taken seriously and they should be encouraged and supported to speak up – not fired from their jobs and gagged.

It should be a source of intense shame for Meta, one of the richest companies on earth, that it has chosen to focus its corporate clout and resources on the latter course of action. Sama, a company that professes to champion dignified work for all but has instead treated its own workers with callous disdain, should equally hang its head. It couldn’t be clearer that both Facebook and Sama view Daniel, and workers like him, as expendable.

Facebook’s treatment of a low-paid, Black whistleblower is all the more shocking when compared to its response to other whistleblowers with more privilege and profile. Frances Haugen, for example, a white former Facebook product manager who won global media attention after leaking thousands of internal company documents, has rightfully been left to speak freely. It appears to us that the company is making a racist calculation that it can safely seek to silence Daniel without causing itself a PR crisis.

Meta and Sama publicly claim to champion freedom of expression, and to support global movements fighting for equality and racial justice. It is impossible to square such statements with your actions in Kenya and with your treatment of content moderation workers globally. The first step to fixing this is to publicly affirm that you will respect Daniel’s right to speak his truth about his experiences working for your companies and to immediately cease your attempts to impose a gag order on Daniel, Foxglove and his legal team.

We also urge both Facebook and Sama to support the unionization of your content moderation workforce as a vital step towards guaranteeing fair conditions and labor rights in this hazardous industry.

Yours sincerely,

Rebecca Dixon, National Employment Law Project
Dr. Cory Doctorow (h.c.), Author and Activist
Patrick Gaspard, President and Chief Executive Officer, Center for American Progress
Frances Haugen, Facebook whistleblower
Dr. Ritumbra Manuvie, Lecturer of International Law and Human Rights, University of Groningen, The Netherlands.
Dr. J. Nathan Matias, Assistant Professor, Cornell University Departments of Communication and Information Science
Roger McNamee, Author of Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe; early investor in Facebook
Dr. Safiya Noble, Author, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism
Erecu Richard, Women, Climate Change & Environmental Rights Defender
Aliganyira Moses Sabiiti, Program Officer, Bunyoro Choice Uganda Masindi
Anya Schiffrin, Director, Technology, Media, and Communications specialization, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
Phumzile van Damme, Ethical Tech Activist and Former South Africa MP
Shoshana Zuboff, author, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power and Charles Edward Wilson Professor Emerita at Harvard Business School
Dr. Susie Alegre, Human Rights Lawyer and Author of Freedom to Think: The Long Struggle to Liberate Our Minds

Access Now
Accountable Tech
AfricanDefenders (Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network)
Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC)
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ)
ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa
Campaign for Free Expression (CFE)
Central Organization of Trade Unions, Kenya (COTU-K)
Centre for Peace Studies
Center for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO)
CFDT Cadres /French Union of White Collars
Color of Change
Corporate Accountability Lab
The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation
Dare to be Grey
Defend Democracy
DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
Državljan D / Citizen D
Fair Vote UK
Freedom of Expression Institute
Free Press
Global Action Plan UK
Global Forum for Media Development
Global Witness
Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD)
International Federation of Journalists
International Lawyers Assisting Workers Network
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
Irish Council of Civil Liberties
Jeevika - Jeeta Vimukti Karnataka, India
Jobs With Justice
Kenya Human Rights Commission
Labour Start
Legal Resources Centre
Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU)
Lie Detectors
Local Sustainable Communities Organization (LOSCO)
Mazingira Institute (Kenya)
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Namibia Media Trust (NMT)
National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Uganda
Nothing2Hide (N2H)
Panoptykon Foundation
People Vs Big Tech
People Forum for Human Rights (People Forum)
Ranking Digital Rights
Real Facebook Oversight Board
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project [SERAP]
Stichting the London Story
The All Africa Students Union (AASU)
The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
The Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF)
The Red Vests Movement
The Signals Network
Transparency International EU
Tribeless Youth
UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry
UNI Global Union
Umbrella for Journalists in Kasese (UJK)
Uyghur Human Rights Project
WeMove Europe
Women Human Rights Defenders Hub (The Hub)

Further information on Daniel’s case:

Time, 1 July 2022, Facebook Asks Judge to 'Crack the Whip' in Attempt to Silence a Black Whistleblower

Foxglove, 14 February 2022, NEW CASE: Foxglove supports Facebook content moderator sacked for leading workers to form a trade union in Kenya