Behind the ‘A.I.’ Boom, an Army of Workers in ‘Digital Sweatshops’

Rebecca Tan and Regine Cabato, Washington Post:

In the Philippines, one of the world’s biggest destinations for outsourced digital work, former employees say that at least 10,000 of these workers do this labor on a platform called Remotasks, which is owned by the $7 billion San Francisco start-up Scale AI.

Scale AI has paid workers at extremely low rates, routinely delayed or withheld payments and provided few channels for workers to seek recourse, according to interviews with workers, internal company messages and payment records, and financial statements. Rights groups and labor researchers say Scale AI is among a number of American AI companies that have not abided by basic labor standards for their workers abroad.

If “Scale AI” sounds familiar to you, it may be because you read similar previous reporting by Josh Dzieza for New York or Andrew Deck for Rest of World. All of these stories are worth your time — though I wish the Post had credited either Dzieza or Deck for their work. As I wrote earlier this year, while these supposedly magical technologies demonstrate achievement in software, they are only made possible by low-paid “gig” workers. We should not obscure that reality.