Outrage Over Fair Labor Laws: Kenyan Workers Advocate for Fairness

Zachary Granger

16 Jul. 2023

Outrage Over Fair Labor Laws: Kenyan Workers Advocate for Fairness

In a significant move that has made waves in the tech industry, Kenyan workers engaged in content moderation for ChatGPT, OpenAI’s smart search engine, have taken a stand against alleged exploitation. In a petition filed with the Kenyan lawmakers, these workers are seeking an investigation into the working conditions and operations of big tech companies that outsource services in Kenya.

These tech industry workers are primarily contracted through companies like Sama, a company that has found itself embroiled in multiple litigations over workplace issues like alleged exploitation, illegal mass layoffs, and obstruction of union formation. The workers involved in the petition are calling for a closer inspection of the nature and conditions of their work, which has involved handling highly graphic and distressing content, such as murder descriptions, hate speech, and instances of sexual abuse.

According to these workers, working on such damaging content intended to detoxify the AI resulted in severe mental illness due to the lack of psychosocial support. The notion of such work, devoid of essential safeguards, is a chilling testament to the current state of AI moderation labor. The outcry of these workers is more than a call for concern; it's an urgent plea for change.

In response to these accusations, OpenAI admitted the challenging nature of the work. They claim to have set and shared ethical and wellness standards with data annotators. However, they did not provide further details. Conversely, Sama expressed openness to working with the Kenyan government to ensure baseline protections for all workers, and it welcomes third-party audits of its working conditions.

In conclusion, the plight of these Kenyan workers mirrors a global issue - the questionable ethics of outsourcing harmful and hard technology work. Their petition seeks not only justice for them but also the regulation of such outsourcing and protection for those involved. As AI and machine learning continue to evolve, it is crucial that the tech industry ensures fair and safe working conditions for those tasked with its development.