Multi-billion-dollar SF start-up Scale AI accused of exploiting Filipino workers

Multi-billion-dollar SF start-up Scale AI accused of exploiting Filipino workers
via Markus Winkler on Unsplash
Michelle De Pacina
August 29, 2023
U.S. tech company Scale AI is being accused of failing to abide by labor standards for its workers living abroad in the Philippines, according to new Washington Post report.
About Scale AI: Scale AI, a $7 billion San Francisco-based start-up, is one of several American AI companies that hire workers from other nations, reported The Washington Post. The software company owns Remotasks, a platform that lets thousands of outsourced remote workers annotate data for AI model training. These workers differentiate objects in videos, label images and edit text to improve AI algorithms.
Exploitation in the Philippines: The Philippines is reportedly one of the largest destinations for outsourced digital work. Over 2 million people in the Philippines are estimated to be part of “crowdwork” in the AI industry. However, they often face exploitation and low pay. The Southeast Asian nation struggles to regulate such platforms due to the absence of protective mechanisms.
Far below minimum wage: Scale AI collaborates with major companies like Meta, Microsoft and Open AI. While the start-up claims to pay a living wage, Filipino workers have claimed that they have experienced delayed or withheld payments, with others stating that they earn far below minimum wage.
For example, 23-year-old Filipino worker Charisse told The Washington Post that Remotasks only paid her 30 cents for four hours of work. Jackie, 26, said he received $12 for working on a project for three workdays, thinking that he would earn $50. Benz, 36, said he collected more than $150 in payments when he was suddenly booted from the platform and never received his money.
Growth of online freelance work: The rapid growth of online freelance work is particularly notable in the Global South, with India and the Philippines accounting for a significant portion. The data collection and annotation industry is projected to reach $17.1 billion by 2030, with the majority of this work being performed in India and the Philippines alone. Many workers there, however, find themselves in “digital sweatshops” and earn extremely low rates as they work to support the West’s booming business of artificial intelligence (AI).
The industry’s exploitation of labor parallels the ethical and regulatory concerns surrounding AI’s bias and potential misuse. However, for Filipinos struggling to find work in their country, they are left with no choice.

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