The Unknown Women of Content Moderation

Many female data workers in Nairobi endure sexual, mental, and physical abuse. This zine sheds light on their experiences as women, mothers, and migrants working as content moderators at Sama.

by Botlhokwa Ranta

Trigger Warning

Readers, please be advised that some of these stories include descriptions of violence and sexual abuse and may be triggering to some readers. Other sensitive themes mentioned include child abuse, violence, eating disorders, addiction, animal abuse, and mental illness. 

My name is Botlhokwa Ranta, and I have authored this zine about women like myself who worked at a company named Sama, doing content moderation for Meta in Nairobi, Kenya. Sama is considered by some as a new-age sweatshop that exploits workers’ rights whenever possible. With this zine, I wanted to shed light on our gendered experiences in this working environment, where our vulnerable positions as young women, migrants, and mothers were exploited. Most of the stories are traumatic and come from a place of pain and tragedy. These stories aim to show the world that there are women who would literally go to the ends of the earth for their children and endure the unthinkable. After so much physical, sexual, and mental trauma, we deserve to be heard loud and clear. The stories are told by real women who went through real-life traumatic experiences while working at Sama in Nairobi.

The process of talking about and writing these stories was not an easy one, but as a young woman and mother in content moderation, I felt compelled to help bring these stories to life. I couldn’t just let them wander off into the wind. I share a sisterhood with some of the women whose stories are told in this zine. This was key for them to trust me enough to tell what they endured. Having been depressed and in a dark place, working on this project has been a tough yet important step in my healing process.

I hope this booklet illustrates that content moderation is not an automated process where AI systems do everything. Many posts on social media are evaluated by humans, who are frequently confronted with very graphic content. These workers bear scars that cannot be healed overnight; the trauma they endure will linger for the rest of their lives. It’s important for the world to understand that while content moderation currently faces flaws, it has the potential to evolve into a fulfilling profession for its workers. Social media companies must stop exploiting people in the Global South for their own gain while neglecting the basic needs of these workers, who are often desperate for jobs. Companies like Meta should prioritize the protection of their workers instead of arbitrarily hiring and firing us at will.

Recommended citation:

Ranta, B. N. D. (2024). The Unknown Women of Content Moderation. In: M. Miceli, A. Dinika, K. Kauffman, C. Salim Wagner, & L. Sachenbacher (eds.), The Data Workers‘ Inquiry.

About the Author

Botlhokwa Ranta

Botlhokwa Nondali Ditshepo Ranta is a 28-year-old woman from Johannesburg, South Africa, who grew up in a township called Diepkloof. She describes Diepkloof as “a wormhole that is hard to leave,” given the pervasiveness of precarized sex work, teenage pregnancy, and drug and alcohol abuse in this area.  Botlhokwa moved to Nairobi, Kenya in 2021 to work as a content moderator at Sama. Even though her experience on the job has been sad and gloomy, she refuses to let tech giants dim her light, as she puts it.

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