Invisible: small clicks and big slaps behind digital applications and social networks

What do the free and virtuality of digital hide? Invisible, the click workers follows the very real and devalued work of delivery people, microworkers and content moderators in this very explicit web documentary from France TV Slash, to watch on France 5, Monday April 11, at 9 p.m.

Order remotely and have it delivered in one click; ask questions and get information through Siri, Google, Apple; navigate without being shocked on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram; qualify the services with a thumbs up, a smile or a grimace; so many gestures that have become natural that we believe are based on brilliant algorithms, automatic processes, in a word on artificial intelligence. But as revealed in September 2019, the investigation Help, my boss is an algorithm in “Cash Investigation”, on France 2, these tasks are often carried out manually, in the shadows, by trimmers in the flesh, whose work (digital labor) considered transient and worthless, is very poorly paid.

” READ ALSO – Bike delivery people join forces to break free from Uber Eats and Deliveroo

Invisible, the click workers, a documentary series in four 26-minute episodes, returns with strong testimonies on these humans feeding the machines, while shedding light on some alternative solutions. Henri Poulain and Julien Goetz, to whom we owe the series Data Mouth are the authors and directors of this web documentary, awarded by Sacem in 2021 and by the Bangkok International Awards in 2020. They successively give the floor to Uber Eats delivery people, to microworkers paid a pittance to improve Google’s algorithms and to content moderators for Facebook, exposed daily to images of incredible violence.

400 euros for 60 to 70 hours of weekly watch

While Uber Eats achieved a turnover of 1.3 billion euros in 2018, delivery men on bicycles guided by a GPS for cars, occasionally taking them on ring roads or highways, continue to put themselves in danger of being paid in the end only when ordering. A delivery man says he works without social security an average of 60 to 70 hours a week to painfully earn 400 euros.

Unpublished revelation of the web documentary, the attractive bonuses of 40 euros would only exist on Sundays between 7 p.m. road! “Invisible, click workers” sheds light on these working conditions from another age with the expertise of Antonio Casilli, research professor at Telecom Paris University. “Delivery people, even waiting for orders, produce geolocation data collected by Uber to operate the service and prepare automatic processes. They train future delivery robots“, emphasizes the latter.

Between 45 and 90 million microworkers in the world

Since no machine is yet really capable of learning on its own and reasoning like a human being, shadow microworkers help algorithms improve every day. Without an employment contract but signatories to a strict confidentiality clause, they carry out repetitive tasks.

” READ ALSO – In France, more than 260,000 “click workers” in the digital world

In France, they would be 260,000, sometimes occasional. Worldwide, they would be between 45 and 90 million, reveals the documentary. On our territory or on the other side of the planet, they work for Disneyland Paris, banks or major French brands, in order to respond to customer services. They adapt and personalize standard models. They have also made simple comparisons for Google over time: “hang picture without drilling” equals “how to hang pictures without drilling”: Dijon mustard is equivalent to Dijon mustard!

Faced with the beheadings and rapes of children

The documentary Invisible, the click workers returns to the tasks of content moderators, who constantly monitor images and videos on behalf of Facebook. For content to be moderated, however, it must first be reported by a user. The documentary reveals that in Barcelona as in Dublin, the employees of the American giant sign an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement), which prohibits them from talking about their work, including to their relatives. But every day, they can be confronted with images of murders, suicides, domestic violence, racism, discrimination, zoophilia or sometimes even beheadings and the rape of children. Many of them have to take anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants.

” READ ALSO – Why have we forgotten the moderators?

Break times (5 minutes per hour) and lunch (20 minutes) are strictly regulated, specifies a moderator. In the first quarter of 2019, Facebook had more than 2.38 billion active users each month and 1.56 billion each day worldwide, to watch… Chris Gray, ex-moderator, who has started a lawsuit against a Facebook contractor, is forever haunted by the sight of the human face blown off by a burst of machine gun fire.

Tomorrow, the best of both worlds?

Free services and applications have their hidden side. Every day, using qualification labels (thumb, hashtag, emoji), we unwittingly train “sentiment analysis” algorithms and artificial intelligences doing image recognition. Are we fully aware of this? To drive the point home, the directors also collect the testimonies of two former “language analysts” from Apple/Cork, who reveal the impressive volume of recordings made randomly and without our knowledge during our conversations and exchanges. Finally, to deal with the uberization and multiplication of piecework, the documentary puts forward some alternative solutions (delivery cooperativestrade unions, etc. to this digital economy, the ins and outs of which we are only beginning to understand.

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Invisible: small clicks and big slaps behind digital applications and social networks


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