Why the Gig Economy can be an Online Hell for Workers

Karl Marx would not be surprised by the gig economy, said Leonid Bershidsky in Bloomberg.com. Marx’s proletariat was made up of laborers who were “increasingly impoverished by the rise of machines.” Well guess what? That describes the workers on “digital labor platforms” such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk perfectly.

The “click-worker” jobs on these platforms can include “filling out questionnaires for academic researchers, transcribing audio, even moderating content for social networks.” These jobs are demanding and require education, yet the people who do them earn an average of only $4.43 an hour, according to a survey of 3,500 workers from 75 countries. That number falls to $3.31 an hour when you factor in unpaid time spent looking for orders, researching clients, and taking qualification tests.

It’s not just workers in poor countries who are paid these wages. Two-thirds of U.S. “Turkers” made less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. These are “hellish” jobs without even “basic worker protections.” Should a modern society tolerate jobs that come with no worker rights and no possibility of dignified survival? “And even if such jobs are allowed, should they be offered by huge tech companies that provide outsize returns to shareholders?” Shouldn’t gig workers get to live in a world that feels like 2018, not Marx’s 1848?

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
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Congress Doesn't Get Big Tech and Senators Don’t Use E-mail. This Bothers Me.

From Senator Chuck Schumer to Senator Lindsey Graham, many of our elected officials continue to brag about not using email. That's concerning. Even more startling is the fact that Congress doesn't get Big Tech. The Facebook hearing last year made it clear that very few U.S. Senators understand Facebook's business. Most of the questions came from tech-challenged Senators who seemed clueless about how Facebook makes its money and even how the Internet works.

"If a version of Facebook will always be free, how do you sustain a business model in which users don't pay for your service?" Senator Orrin Hatch, the 84-year-old Republican from Utah (who also famously doesn't use email), asked early on in the five-hour hearing. Mark Zuckerberg paused a moment before saying, "Senator, we run ads." He, and his staff sitting behind him, then grinned directly at him. There's a NetLingo word for that Senator Hatch: noob.

Watch this and tell me Congress, do you really want to be laughed at by Big Tech?

Meanwhile Trump is begging Big Tech for free labor to avoid federal hirings, and because of the government shutdown, 45% of employees in the Department of Homeland Security’s newly created Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have been furloughed, in addition to 85% of workers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

This all bothers me so I try to reach out and voice my concern but apparently you need to call, and not email, your legislators. I'm told even if you don’t speak directly to the lawmaker, staff members will often pass the message along in one form or another. Really? With a can and a line of string?

Congress, you cannot afford to be stuck in 1995. As Catherine Rampell from the Washington Post reminds us, the digital revolution is now decades old, affecting virtually every industry and public policy. Senators help make federal laws regulating technology, privacy, cybersecurity, and the digital economy, and for you, ignoring how everyone else in the nation communicates is a form of political malpractice. If you know little or nothing about technology in a technological age, you shouldn't be in the Senate, but if you are, then please hire a consultant like me.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
Subscribe to the NetLingo Blog via Email or RSS here