Aljazeera America on Crowdsourcing

Here’s the link. Today is May Day and so there’s a lot on the Internets about workers’ rights. There’s quite a bit of information from one of my MTurk Idols, Lily Irani:

They (crowdsource workers) form the unseen backbone for much of the social web but are rarely acknowledged and often poorly paid. Lilly Irani, a professor at the University of California-San Diego described them in a recent essay on the website Public Books as “data janitors” who quietly scrub the social web free of vulgar material.

Irani and others who study the hidden world of content moderators say that their work has consequences far beyond the desire to shield our monitors from NSFW videos. They are asked to make implicit political decisions about what constitutes offensive or obscene content; and although they play a crucial role for companies that rely on user-generated content, their work is undervalued. The fact that they remain invisible means everyone else can indulge in the illusion that the Internet is a truly open, democratic forum for free expression and debate.

“The existence of workers who do jobs like content moderation and other kinds of work really turns the tables on the kind of myths that have surrounded the Internet for at least the past 20 years,” said Sarah Roberts, a professor of information and media studies at Western University in Ontario.

“There’s a myth that says the Internet is a mechanism for immediate participatory democracy,” she told Al Jazeera. “People can take part, people can voice their opinions; it’s you, to the platform, to the world. But in fact, it’s not that simple. There are all kinds of actors in between you and how you broadcast yourself to the world, and we don’t know who they are.”

The excellent Public Books article is here.

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