From today’s NPR News:
An army of workers is behind every Google search you do. They’re there for quality control and try to make sure your results aren’t full of inaccurate or misleading links. And they are people, not artificial intelligence. Google calls them Google Raters. But as NPR’s Dara Kerr reports, they call themselves ghost workers.
DARA KERR, BYLINE: When Ed Stackhouse flips open his laptop every morning and logs on, he sees a list of assignments from Google. For example, he’s told to examine whether the results from a YouTube search match what people could be looking for.
ED STACKHOUSE: And I will tick off boxes as to whether or not it’s upsetting, offensive or pornographic in nature, racy and that sort.
KERR: And that’s just YouTube. Stackhouse also makes sure Google searches are authentic and that page links aren’t broken. Basically, he’s a content moderator. His job is to rate the quality of searches and be on the lookout for scams. Like all Google Raters, Stackhouse works from home. He lives in North Carolina, but these workers are spread out around the world. They don’t work directly for Google, but for contracting companies. And that is what has turned them into ghost workers, says Google Rater Teresa Partain.
TERESA PARTAIN: There’s a wall between us and Google. We’re not actually even supposed to say Google. We’re not allowed to have any contact with the people on their search and ads team who need our help.
KERR: Partain and Stackhouse work for a contractor called Appen. They and all their colleagues make $15 an hour and aren’t allowed to work more than 29 hours a week. If they could get just one more hour each week, then under Google policies, they say they’d qualify for benefits like health insurance and paid sick leave.
PARTAIN: The magic 30 hours a week is what we can’t go past.
KERR: A Google spokeswoman told NPR that subcontracting companies like Appen, quote, “manage all employment terms for the Raters, including pay and benefits.” Appen didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. Stackhouse has a heart condition, and Partain has Parkinson’s disease, so they appreciate working from home. However, health insurance is a big issue. Over the past year, Google Raters have been building a community to advocate for better working conditions, and now they’re amping up the pressure.
Read the complete story here.