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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Low-Paid AI Workers Plead with Biden to End ‘Modern Day Slavery’

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In Short:

A group of African tech workers published an open letter to President Biden, demanding US tech companies stop exploiting them. The workers, mostly from Kenya, allege working for companies like Meta, OpenAI, and Scale AI is like modern-day slavery due to low pay and exposure to disturbing content. They call for fair treatment, payment, and better working conditions. African tech contractors have filed lawsuits against tech outsourcing companies for illegal treatment.

Concerns Raised by African Tech Workers

AI projects like OpenAI’s ChatGPT benefit from the work of tech industry’s lowest-paid workers, often contractors in poor countries tasked with correcting chatbots and labeling images. Recently, 97 African workers involved in AI training work and online content moderation for companies like Meta and OpenAI issued an open letter to President Biden, urging US tech companies to cease exploitation of African workers.

Allegations of Exploitation

Most of these workers are from Kenya, a tech outsourcing hub, where they claim to face practices akin to modern-day slavery by companies like Meta, OpenAI, and data provider Scale AI. These workers are exposed to disturbing content for long hours and paid meager wages, leading to mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder.

Work Conditions and Union Advocacy

The workers review content on platforms such as Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram, as well as label images and train chatbots for companies like OpenAI. Affiliated with the African Content Moderators Union, they demand fair treatment and working conditions. In a separate incident, workers from Kenya, Nigeria, and Pakistan were abruptly banned from working on Scale AI‘s platform, prompting claims of unpaid wages.

Call for Action

The letter highlights the need for US tech companies to engage with foreign tech workers, comply with local laws, and combat union-busting practices. It urges President Biden to ensure accountability for human rights and labor violations by tech companies operating outside the US.

Recent Developments and Legal Actions

Recently, Meta faced backlash for laying off Kenya-based content moderators, hindering union formation. The workers have filed lawsuits demanding better working conditions and payment of wages. The African Content Moderators Union stresses the importance of dignified and fairly compensated work.

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