The Low-Paid Humans Behind AI’s Smarts Ask Biden to Free Them From ‘Modern Day Slavery’

AI projects like OpenAI’s ChatGPT get part of their savvy from some of the lowest-paid workers in the tech industry—contractors often in poor countries paid small sums to correct chatbots and label images. On Wednesday, 97 African workers who do AI training work or online content moderation for companies like Meta and OpenAI published an open letter to President Biden, demanding that US tech companies stop “systemically abusing and exploiting African workers.”

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

A typical workday for African tech contractors, the letter says, involves “watching murder and beheadings, child abuse and rape, pornography and bestiality, often for more than 8 hours a day.” Pay is often less than $2 per hour, it says, and workers frequently end up with post-traumatic stress disorder, a well-documented issue among content moderators around the world.

The letter’s signatories say their work includes reviewing content on platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram, as well as labeling 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 first content moderators union on the continent, and a group founded by laid-off workers who previously trained AI technology for companies such as Scale AI, which sells datasets and data-labeling services to clients including OpenAI, Meta, and the US military. The letter was published on the site of the UK-based activist 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 from working on Remotasks, Scale AI’s platform for contract work. The letter says that these workers were cut off without notice and are “owed significant sums of unpaid wages.”

Source : Wired