Daniel Motaung, the Facebook whistleblower, honored in Mozilla’s Rise 25 Awards

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Daniel Motaung, the South African who was working for Meta/ Facebook as content moderator in Kenya has been honored in the 2023 Mozilla Rise 25 Awards for his whistleblower role and as part of the people shaping the future of the internet to be more ethical, responsible and inclusive, ensuring a positive future for all. 

The 25 artists, activists, creators builders and advocates will be celebrated at event in Berlin, Germany on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023 at the Rise 25 Awards. The awards will be held during Mozilla’s Reclaim the Internet, a five day-long event in Berlin, Germany, is part of Mozilla’s 25th anniversary celebration.

“At a time when many feel they’ve lost control over their digital lives, it’s easy to forget about all that’s wonderful online,” said Mitchell Baker, CEO of Mozilla. “That’s why we are honoring these individuals who are doing work that unlocks the internet as a powerful vehicle of imagination and connection. They are 25 people who are reclaiming an internet that is open, accessible and meaningful to everyone.”

Mozilla says it believes the most groundbreaking innovations arise when people of diverse backgrounds come together to collaborate and openly trade ideas. This approach to innovation — grounded in strong pillars of experimentation and community — has defined its work over the past 25 years, fueling global movements around open-source innovation, online privacy and trustworthy AI

Motaung who claimed that he was paid about $2.20 per hour to review posts including beheadings and child abuse sued his then Kenyan-based employer Sama, which had been contracted by Meta for content moderation. His case follows 2020’s suit in the US that saw Meta pay $52m to content moderators who claimed mental health issues caused by their job at Meta.

Motaung said he was exposed to among other things “a live video of someone being beheaded” and suffered flashbacks of the gory images and videos. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and believed that many of his co-workers also struggled with the same. Foxglove, a UK registered non-profit community interest company, helped the South African whistleblower in the case against Sama, his ex-Kenyan employer and US-based Meta/Facebook.

Motaung asked Meta to bring in mental health support for content moderators, Meta and Sama were asked to end their illegal union-busting activity, and Meta and Sama were required to appoint independent human rights and psychological care consultants to end the toxic working environment and Meta and Sama were to pay any unlawfully kept wages from content moderators and any work-related damages and mental health support for former and existing content moderators affected. Sama agreed to efefct the changes and also bumped up content moderators’ pay at its Nairobi office by 30-50%. For his activism work, Motaung was named in the prestigious 2022 “TIME100 Next” list.

Here are the honorees:

Artists

  • Sylvia Grace Borda (Canada) explores cultural policy through photography, environmental art and community engagement.
  • Marlena Myles (USA) is a Native American artist dedicated to honoring Indigenous history and traditions. 
  • Julia Janssen (Netherlands) seeks to make our digital society’s challenges tangible through art.
  • Dries Depoorter (Belgium) melds technology and art to highlight digital modern concerns.
  • Marek Tuszynski (Germany) is an artist, designer and curator working at the intersection of technology and activism.

These artists are being honored for creating innovative and thought-provoking digital artwork, using the internet as their canvas to inspire others and rethink what’s possible online.

Activists

  • Daniel Motaung (South Africa) is an ex-Facebook moderator and whistleblower who fights for more ethical online practices.
  • Ahmad Hegab (Egypt) works to combat technology-facilitated, gender-based violence in the Middle East and North Africa region with the SecDev Foundation and Harassmap. 
  • Sneha Revanur (USA) leads Encode Justice, which aims to elevate youth voices in support of  human-centered AI.
  • Chris Smalls (USA) is an Amazon Labor Union founder and president who advocates for workers’ rights and conditions.
  • Larissa May (USA) works to empower the next generation’s healthy relationship with social media through her nonprofit, #HalfTheStory.

These activists are being honored for using the internet as a tool to amplify their voices in order to drive social and political change.

Creators

  • Abbie Spector Richards (USA) is a TikTok misinformation researcher sharing educational content on the platform.
  • Kay López (USA) of Latinas Poderosas empowers Latinas by celebrating their heritage and accomplishments.
  • Vitus “V” Spehar (USA) makes news accessible and less intimidating with their TikTok channel Under The Desk News, standing out as a unique voice in journalism.
  • Rachel Hislop (USA) is a writer, strategist and public speaker. She has spearheaded dynamic editorial strategies to propel brands to new heights at places like OkayPlayer and Parkwood Entertainment.
  • Nyamekye Wilson (USA) develops educational programs for Black women around the world with her nonprofit, Black Sisters in STEM.

These creators are being honored for using storytelling to build community online, inspiring their audiences and sparking important conversations.

Builders

  • Rob Morris (USA) is the CEO of Koko, which provides mental health support to more than 2 million young people online.
  • Andy Yen (Switzerland) is the founder and CEO of Proton, which offers a privacy-by-default online ecosystem.
  • Trisha Prabhu (USA) is the founder and CEO of ReThink, a patented app that proactively combats cyberbullying.
  • Raphael Mimoun (USA) is the founder of Horizontal, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building tools that empower journalists and human rights defenders.
  • Keoni Mahelona (New Zealand) develops tech tools to protect and promote indigenous languages and knowledge.

These builders are being honored for making the web more secure and accessible to everyone.

Advocates

  • Finn Lützow-Holm Myrstad (Norway) leads the development of more ethical digital policies at the Norwegian Consumer Council.
  • Fanny Hidvégi (Belgium) leads the European policy strategy of Access Now, an organization defending the digital rights of at-risk communities.
  • Natalia Domagala (UK) is a global digital policy specialist, who launched the first national-level public sector data ethicist role in the UK and led the development of one of the first national standards for algorithmic transparency. 
  • Charlotte Slaiman (USA) is vice president at Public Knowledge, developing tools for the democratization of knowledge.
  • Dr. J. Nathan Matias (USA) leads the Citizens and Technology Lab at Cornell University and champions independent technology research.

“These advocates are being honored for shaping the regulations and policies governing the internet, fighting to keep it open and free,” said Mozilla in a statement to TechMoran. “We believe that we all have a role to play in reclaiming the internet. This celebration isn’t just about Mozilla; it’s about all the innovators, advocates, creators and communities who are working to build a happier, healthier web.”

The Rise 25 Awards will be livestreamed on Mozilla’s YouTube channel on Oct. 13 beginning at 8:30 p.m. CET/2:30 p.m. ET. The full show recording will be available on the channel shortly after. The livestream will be available to watch on the Washington Post’s homepage as well and on social media using the hashtag #reclaimtheinternet.