In a move that could have far-reaching implications for the tech industry, Kenyan content moderators who worked on the development of the popular AI chatbot ChatGPT have filed a petition with the Kenyan Parliament, calling for an investigation into OpenAI and Samasource, the companies that contracted them to do the work.
After the viral generative AI product was released last November by Open AI, the stories of exploitation of Kenyan content moderators who worked to ensure make the product less toxic and earning less than $2 per hour surfaced.
According to documents seen by Techspace Africa, Open AI signed three contracts worth about $200,000 to outsource the product’s content moderation to Sama, a San Francisco-based firm that employs workers in Kenya, Uganda, and India.
However, Sama argues that the amount it pays, between Sh26,600 and Sh40,000 ($210 to $323) per month, is more than double the minimum wage in Kenya and also well above the living wage. A comparative US wage would be between $30 and $45 per hour,” Sama told to Quartz Africa earlier in the year.
The moderators have now filed a petition in parliament seeking a probe into Open AI and Sama. “Sama engaged us and other young Kenyans on temporary contracts to do this work. The contracts did not describe sufficiently the nature of the job,” according to court documents filed by Richard Mwaura Mathenge, Mophat Ochieng Okinyi, Alex Mwaura Kairu, and Bill Kelvin Mulinya on behalf of other moderators.
“Examples of the content that we were exposed to include; acts of bestiality, necrophilia, incestuous sexual violence, rape, defilement of minors, self-harm (e.g. suicide), and murder just to mention a few. [All of these] with no psychological support,” they said.
The moderators also want the government to look into the outsourcing model which they say is unregulated leaving workers treated poorly and not afforded the same protection as full-time employees.
Their petition comes just two months after over 150 moderators working for Facebook, TikTok, and ChatGPT resolved to register a workers union dubbed the Content Moderators Union, drawing moderators from any major tech firm.