The Ghost of the Mechanical Turk | Jacobin
It is significant that the World Bank thinks that Gaza and the West Bank are “particularly relevant” destinations for #microwork. In the global race to the bottom, the “bottom” is an open-air prison and an area under military occupation. According to their 2014 report, these sites pose “limited risks” to employers in terms of having to pay any full-time employment benefits or a minimum wage. Protections may be “risky” for employers. But making someone dependent for their survival on an algorithm with zero accountability is risky. Not paying them an adequate hourly rate to feed themselves or their family is risky. Irregular or excessive working hours resulting in repetitive strain, eye problems, or insomnia are risky.
One of the big selling points of digital workplaces is also that they are blind to race and gender. But the inherent inequalities of these systems don’t go away just because participants remain anonymous. After Chinese labor camps were exposed for forcing prisoners to play profitable online games, gaming chatrooms began to use “Chinese gold-farmer” as a pejorative for worker-players trying to sell virtual goods. Syrian players in Shatila who viewed their gaming activities as leisure rather than work complained that their broken English or Arab names meant they were viewed by other players as unwanted guest workers or “gold-farmers.” Microworkers have no protection from similar dynamics on digital labor platforms.