Amazon Turkers Who Train AI Say They’re Locked Out of Their Work and Money

“Our labor is what makes AI work, and it could not function without us. We are the data that makes the machine work.”
Amazon Turkers Who Train AI Say They’re Locked Out of Their Work and Money
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A workers rights group for Mechanical Turk workers says that at least dozens of MTurk workers have been suddenly locked out of the Amazon-owned microlabor platform, suggesting a widespread issue that is denying these people the ability to work and in some cases denying them access to money they have already made on the platform.

I learned about the workers being locked out of their accounts from Turkopticon, a group that advocates for Mechanical Turk workers, or Turkers, which is currently raising money for a mutual aid fund to support them financially. 

Krystal Kauffman, a lead organizer at Turkopticon, told me that so far the organization has heard from about 30 workers who were locked out of their accounts, though these are just the people it heard from directly, and could indicate a more widespread issue. These workers, many of whom rely on Mechanical Turk as one of their primary sources of income, are locked out of their accounts and can’t take on more work. Like other gig labor services, the money workers make first goes into their Mechanical Turk account, which they can then transfer out to a personal account. Some of the workers who are locked out of their accounts can’t access money they’ve already made. Workers also can't access their accounts for information they need to file their taxes, which are due in April.

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“Over the years it [Mechanical Turk work] has changed from extra income, to primary income,” Krista Pawloski, one of the Turkers locked out of her accounts, told me in an email. “It was not my only source at the time of suspension, but it was the biggest chunk of it [...] I do have money in my account they stole from me, but as I'm completely locked out, I don't know the exact amount. It would have been $200 or less.”