Behind the AI boom, an army of overseas workers in ‘digital sweatshops’

Behind the AI boom, an army of overseas workers in ‘digital sweatshops’

Thousands of young workers log online daily in a seaside city in the southern Philippines to service the rapidly expanding artificial intelligence industry.

They annotate the vast amounts of data that American corporations need to train their artificial intelligence models, whether they are doing it at home, in crowded offices, or in dismal internet cafes.

They categorize images so AI can create representations of politicians and celebrities, they distinguish pedestrians from palm trees in movies.

Digital sweatshops

To develop algorithms for automated driving, and they edit text to prevent language models like ChatGPT from producing gibberish.

Informal government estimates place the number of persons engaged in this type of “crowdwork” in the Philippines at around 2 million.

Although machine learning without humans is how AI is sometimes portraye, the technology actually depends on the labor-intensive efforts of a workforce that is dispersed over most of the Global South and frequently the target of exploitation.

Large data sets must be accurate, precise, and readable in order for the mathematical models that power AI tools to be helpful.

AI produced from poor data is also poor.

Hence, a completely uncontrolled army of humans is turning the raw data into AI feedstock one click at a time.

Former workers assert that at least 10,000 of these people carry out this work on the Remotasks platform in the Philippines.

One of the top countries in the world for outsourcing digital work, which is own by the $7 billion San Francisco start-up Scale AI.

According to interviews with workers, internal corporate messaging and payment records, financial documents, and records of payments.

Scale AI has consistently delayed or withheld payments. Paid workers at extremely low rates, and provided few avenues for workers to seek redress.

Scale AI is one of several American AI firms.

According to rights organizations and labor academics. They have failed to uphold fundamental labor norms for their employees in other countries.

All but two of the 36 current and former freelancers who were question claimed that they had experienced payment delays. Reductions, or cancellations from the site after completing projects.

The laborers, known as “taskers,” claimed that although occasionally they do make more than the minimum wage. Which in the Philippines varies from $6 to $10 per day depending on location, they frequently earn significantly less than that amount.

Digital sweatshops

According to its website, Scale AI, which performs work for organizations like Meta, Microsoft. Generative AI businesses like Open AI, the developer of ChatGPT, is “happy to pay rates at a living wage.”

A spokesperson for Scale AI, Anna Franko, said in a statement that “delays or disruptions to payments. Incredibly unusual” and that Remotasks’ pay mechanism “is always improving” in response to worker input.

Yet, The Washington Post found that reports of missed or late payments from supervisors were widespread on an internal messaging system for Remotasks. There were several announcements for certain projects in a single month.

Supervisors occasionally inform employees that payments are held back because of incomplete or late work.

Supervisors occasionally failed to offer an explanation.

Employees claimed that attempts to find misplaced payments frequently failed or, worse yet, resulted in the deactivation of their accounts.

Thousands of young workers connect on to the internet each day in a seaside city in the southern. Philippines to help the rapidly expanding artificial intelligence industry…

They annotate the vast amounts of data that American corporations need to train their artificial intelligence models. Whether they are doing it at home, in crowded offices, or in dismal internet cafes.

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