Home Money Underpaid Humans Behind AI Intelligence Call on Biden to Free Them from ‘Modern Slavery’

Underpaid Humans Behind AI Intelligence Call on Biden to Free Them from ‘Modern Slavery’

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Underpaid Humans Behind AI Intelligence Call on Biden to Free Them from 'Modern Slavery'

AI projects like OpenAI’s ChatGPT draw some of their knowledge from some of the tech industry’s lowest-paid workers: contractors, often in poor countries, paid small sums to fix chatbots and tag images. On Wednesday, 97 African AI training workers work or moderate online content for companies such as Meta and OpenAI. published an open letter to President Biden, demanding that American tech companies stop “systematically abusing and exploiting African workers.”

Most of the signatories of the letter are from Kenya, a technology outsourcing hub, whose president, William Ruto, is visiting the US this week. The workers allege that the practices of companies such as Meta, OpenAI and data provider Scale AI “amount to modern slavery.” The companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A typical workday for African tech contractors, the letter says, involves “viewing murders and beheadings, child abuse and rape, pornography and bestiality, often for more than eight hours a day.” The pay is often less than $2 an hour, she says, and workers frequently end up with post-traumatic stress disorder, a well documented problem between content moderators from around the world.

The letter’s signatories say their work includes reviewing content on platforms like Facebook, TikTok and Instagram, as well as tagging images and training chatbot responses for companies like OpenAI that are developing generative AI technology. The workers are affiliated with the African Content Moderators Union, the continent’s first union of content moderators, and a group founded by laid-off workers who previously trained in AI technology for companies like Scale AI, which sells datasets and tagging services. of data to clients including OpenAI, Meta and the US military. The letter was posted on the site from UK-based advocacy group Foxglove, which promotes tech worker unions and equitable tech.

In March, the letter and news reports say, Scale AI abruptly banned people based in Kenya, Nigeria and Pakistan to work on Remotasks, Scale AI’s platform for contract work. The letter says these workers were fired without notice and “are owed significant sums of unpaid wages.”

“When Remotasks closed, it took livelihoods out of our hands and food out of our kitchens,” says Joan Kinyua, a member of the group of former Remotasks workers, in a statement to WIRED. “But Scale AI, the big company that ran the platform, gets away with it because it’s based in San Francisco.”

Although the Biden administration has frequently described his approach towards labor policy as “worker-centered”.” The African workers’ letter argues that this does not apply to them, saying “we are treated as disposable.”

“You have the power to stop our exploitation by corporate America, clean up this work, and give us dignity and fair working conditions,” the letter says. “They can make sure there are good jobs for Kenyans too, not just Americans.”

Tech contractors in Kenya have filed lawsuits in recent years alleging that tech outsourcing companies and their American clients, like Meta, have treated workers illegally. Wednesday’s letter demands that Biden ensure that American tech companies interact with foreign tech workers, comply with local laws and end anti-union practices. It also suggests that technology companies “must be held accountable in US courts for their illegal shipboard operations, particularly their labor and human rights violations.”

the letter arrives just over a year after 150 workers formed the African Union of Content Moderators. Goal fired quickly all of its nearly 300 Kenya-based content moderators, workers say, effectively breaking the fledgling union. The company is currently facing three demands from more than 180 Kenyan workersdemanding more humane working conditions, freedom of organization and payment of unpaid wages.

“Everyone wants to see more jobs in Kenya,” says Kauna Malgwi, a member of the steering committee of the African Union of Content Moderators. “But not at any price. The only thing we ask for is a decent job, fairly paid, safe and protected.”

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