You may have recently seen articles reporting alleged concerns about our content moderation workforce, including compensation and employee mental health. Many of these articles contain 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 65,000 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.
This article was originally published in February 2022 and has been updated to reflect new information.
We are 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 allegation that Sama does not compensate its employees fairly is false.
Given content moderation is a tough job, we paid employees wages that are consistently 3x the minimum wage and 2x the living wage in Kenya as a recognition of the work. We chose to end our work in content moderation and made a strategic decision to focus on our core expertise in computer vision data annotation. Content moderation accounted for less than 4% of Sama’s business, and our last moderation contract officially ended on March 31, 2023.
We’ve worked hard to ensure employment at Sama has a tangible and immediate impact on our employees’ lives. On average, new team members in 2022 saw an average 2.2x 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%. That includes many of our former content moderators, who transitioned to other roles within Sama after we ended our moderation contracts.
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.
In 2021, 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 has 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 invested 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 utilized a multi-step hiring process when recruiting content moderators globally, and recruiters were 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 decided the job was not a fit, Sama handled 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 all employees’ needs, including those of content moderators.
First, we capped the work-week for all content moderators at 37.4 hours. Second, we mandated 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 were available 24/7 as often as an employee would like. To request these meetings, team members logged into the system and requested an appointment with a therapist. Team leaders were trained to accommodate these requests without any fear of repercussion. Beyond that, employees participated in individual sessions with a qualified and licensed professional on a biweekly basis, and had 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 began 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.
Over the past three 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.
Articles have falsely alleged 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 did Sama provide free transportation for content moderators to these facilities, but testing and treatment are also entirely covered by insurance for all Sama employees.
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.
We have already taken steps based on our learnings from these audits and suggestions. First, we have established an Ethics Guild, which is a cross-functional team with representatives from all countries in which Sama operates, including East Africa production and management, R&D and Product, Sales, and the Executive Team. This team has the power to evaluate any and all work in light of Sama’s ethical guidelines and can refuse work independently if it feels that proposed work violates those guidelines. Second, we have completed our conversion to a public benefit corporation, legally binding us to our mission to empower women and youth in East Africa and requiring us to make all business decisions through that lens.
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.