What TIME Got Wrong

What TIME Got Wrong

You may have recently seen an article reporting alleged concerns about our content moderation workforce, including compensation and employee mental health. The article contains false and misleading characterizations of our company and team, and we would like to set the record straight.

  • Sama’s business model is designed to meaningfully improve employment and income for those with the greatest barriers to it via training, benefits, and work.
  • Sama is a longstanding and trusted employer in East Africa. To date, Sama’s work has helped lift more than 59,000 individuals out of poverty.
  • Sama is a certified B Corporation, and our impact model has been validated by respected third-party organizations such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

We were disappointed to see these falsehoods and inaccuracies published, and we’d like to share the facts. Sama values its employees, and we are proud of the long-standing work we have done.

To be clear, there was never a strike and the article falsely alleges that Sama does not compensate its employees fairly.

Given content moderation is a tough job, we pay employees wages that are consistently 3x the minimum wage and 2x the living wage in Kenya as a recognition of the work.

We’ve worked hard to ensure employment at Sama has a tangible and immediate impact on our employees’ lives. Today, new team members see an average 3.6x increase in their earnings when joining the company, and receive healthcare, pension plans, travel expenses, food subsidies, and other benefits that cover essential expenses for employees and their dependents in each of our working regions.

The vast majority of employees across our offices choose to remain employed at Sama, demonstrating the effectiveness of our impact and hiring model, which is reflected in our annual attrition rate of just 4%.

A model recognized by reputable institutions for its high standards

We are committed to the principle of data quality and transparency, and we understand the importance of offering evidence to support our claims about the company. That’s why we’ve invested heavily in analyzing the success of our processes with the help of trusted and reputable third parties.

Last year, we shared an extensive independent randomized controlled study from MIT that showed individuals trained and included in Sama’s hiring pool out-earned the control group and were more likely to experience better outcomes. For our female workforce, which is historically impacted by the gender pay gap, the MIT study found that women who were trained and included in Sama’s hiring pool, on average, earned 60% more than women in the control group.

Further solidifying the efficacy of our impact work, B Labs not only granted Sama B Corporation Certification but recognized our work in its Best for the World™ list within the B Labs Workers category. This list honors the companies making a significant impact on the lives of their employees well beyond work hours. Beyond earning this recognition, Sama achieved a top 5% score in the evaluation by prioritizing exemplary employee-friendly practices worldwide.

A transparent recruitment process

We understand that content moderation is a difficult but essential job to ensure the safety of the internet for everyone, and it’s why we invest heavily in training, personal development, and wellness programs.

As a global technology company, partner and employer, we take pride in our responsibility to be transparent and honest. It is completely inaccurate to suggest that Sama employees were hired under false pretenses or were provided inaccurate information regarding content moderation work.

Sama utilizes a multi-step hiring process when recruiting content moderators globally, and recruiters are trained to share examples of sample content from the first interview to ensure clear expectations are set. If at any time in an individual’s employment they decide the job is not a fit, Sama handles all travel accommodations so they can return to their home country.

A culture that prioritizes employee health and wellness

Sama cares deeply about the health and emotional well-being of its team. It’s why we have invested in creating a working environment that supports our content moderators’ needs.

First, we cap the work-week for all content moderators’ at 37.4 hours. Second, we mandate that all content moderators take one and half hours of wellness + meal breaks per day to ensure their mental health needs are met. Third, on-demand 1:1 counseling sessions are available 24/7 as often as an employee would like. To request these meetings, team members log into the system and request an appointment with a therapist. Team leaders are trained to accommodate these requests without any fear of repercussion. Beyond that, employees participate in individual sessions with a qualified and licensed professional on a biweekly basis, and have access to group sessions at least twice a month.

Finally, we offer all employees health insurance benefits, including mental health coverage. Benefits for content moderators begin on day one.

Across our offices, we’ve invested heavily in wellness facilities – including mother’s rooms where women have a private space for nursing as often as they need – as well as meditation and prayer rooms.

Pandemic response

Over the past two years, we’ve been incredibly vocal and transparent about our Covid-19 policies. In addition to offering our employees safe housing to mitigate exposure risk, we’ve worked hard on vaccine education and offered vaccination appointments in-office based upon availability.

The article falsely alleges that Sama employees have not had access to Covid-19 testing, cannot stay home when sick, and that the company was not supportive of building a productive office environment for those who needed it. All of these allegations are factually incorrect. In addition to providing proactive Covid-19 testing in our office, employees are granted unlimited sick days when diagnosed with Covid-19. Additionally, we have hosted eight vaccine drives: seven in 2021 on July 23rd, 26th, 30th, August 2nd, 28th, October 22nd, November 26th, and one in 2022 on February 10th.

Sama, like nearly every other global company, requires its employees to provide proof of positive illness to avail themselves of the benefits provided by the company. To facilitate this, employees have been advised to use one of several accredited hospital facilities to receive comprehensive testing. Not only does Sama provide free transportation for content moderators to these facilities, but testing and treatment are also entirely covered by insurance for all Sama employees.

Moving forward

As a global technology company, partner and employer, we take pride in our work and believe our content moderators have played a real, significant, and vital role in ensuring the internet is a safer place for all people in Sub-Saharan Africa.

We take all criticism seriously and have actively encouraged our team members to voice concerns or opinions so that we can improve. Each of these suggestions will be thoroughly evaluated.

Looking ahead, our leadership team remains focused on treating all Sama employees with dignity and respect. Our leadership team is hosting town hall meetings with our team members globally so we can better understand their needs and we are conducting audits as it relates to pay, operations, onboarding, and wellness to ensure we respond appropriately. What’s more, we will continue to have independent third-party auditors assess our working conditions, pay, and benefits, and we will revisit our processes and make further enhancements for the benefit of our team.

Sama was founded with the mission to empower workers and improve their lives by giving and offering the very best working conditions. Continuous improvement and excellence are at the heart of everything we do, and we invite anyone, in and outside of the company, to help us on our journey.