The title of this article comes to us courtesy of the Amazon PR machine. When I read that statement, it tells me that Amazon/AWS/AMT does not care about the turkers worldwide who work on programming their smart devices. It tells me they do not respect us, they do not value our contributions to their company, and while their business practices may be technically legal, they are ethically questionable.
Let’s back up and recap how we got to the quote in the title:
On August 19, 2022, AI Insights posted two batches of HITs. The tasks were not complicated and paid one penny each. The workload on the platform was fairly slow and when workers found a batch of “one-click” HITs, they started working on them right away. The requester showed a 99% approval rating. The HITs numbered well over 70,000. Some workers did hundreds of these. Unfortunately, each and every HIT was rejected shortly after it was submitted.
At first, we thought this had to be a mistake and the requester would fix it. Workers emailed AI Insights but did not receive any responses. Many workers reached out to AMT customer service and were never helped. One worker told us that they contacted AMT on 8/19, 8/26, and 8/28 and never received a response back. Another worker who did not get a response from AMT told us, “If the money is the motivating factor why either party hasn’t already fixed things… I don’t care if they keep the money at this point, it’s only $1.31. It’s the impact on my rating that’s hurting the most, so I’d be happy enough if they can only get the rejections overturned.” Another worker added, “Was literally my first day turking.. what a lovely start to have to rebound from that.”
Turkopticon has been trying to work with Amazon to repair the damages that workers incurred on the AMT platform, through no fault of their own. Possibly the most ridiculous part of this situation is that multiple representatives from Amazon told us that AI Insights DID mass reject unfairly. There was an error in the coding of their task so they rejected the workers and hid. I mean that literally. An Amazon rep asked if we knew the new name AI Insights was operating under. Rejecting without just cause is against AMT’s terms of service.
Just to make sure we’re all together: AI Insights was approved by Amazon for a requester account on AMT. AI Insights ran one batch and accepted the tasks, giving them a 99% approval rating, as calculated by Amazon. Roughly a month later, on August 19, 2022, AI Insights dropped two batches with HITs numbering more than 70,000. Workers rushed to work the batch and many workers completed hundreds of tasks. Almost immediately, the tasks were rejected. What seemed like a huge mistake was not a mistake at all. AI Insights did indeed intentionally mass-reject every HIT because there was an error in their HIT coding. This directly violates AMT’s terms of service. Workers emailed the requester and did not receive a response. A number of workers also contacted AMT and many did not receive a response.
As I briefly mentioned, Turkopticon began trying to work with AMT immediately to help repair the damage done to worker accounts by this situation. After the rejection, the approval rating for the requester plummeted from 99% to 5%. Finally, more than 40 days after the rejections, a small group of workers began reporting on turker forums that their rejections were overturned. We watched as the Amazon-generated approval rating for AI Insights rose from 5% to 9%. It was very exciting but odd for several reasons.
As suddenly as the rejections started to overturn, they stopped. There was no rhyme or reason for which rejections were overturned. Some turkers had contacted the requester, some had not. Some turkers had contacted AMT, some had not. Some turkers held the Master’s qualification while others did not. That was not the only thing that didn’t make sense. It clearly states in the Amazon UI Guide that rejections are unable to be overturned after 30 days. It was more than 40 days since the rejections that these reversals happened. If it is not possible to overturn rejections after 30 days, how were these reversed?
We have brought up the issue multiple times, asked for the rejections to be overturned, and explained how this particular rejection (and mass rejections in general) hurt workers’ approval ratings and limits the work a turker qualifies for. We were led to believe by different Amazon employees over the last six months that this issue was being looked into and that there may be potential solutions. It now seems that was not the case. Even though we now know it is possible for rejections to be overturned after 30 days, we are still being told that it cannot be done.
The last meeting we had with Amazon staff was in March. We were told by one of the engineers present that they would look into the possible solution previously mentioned to the AI Insights issue and they would get back to us. We let them know that we would be coming back to the turker community with the updates they shared because we have vowed to keep everyone informed.
After a few weeks passed, we reached out and asked for the update we were told we’d be given. The response to our question was short and without explanation: “On the AI Insights issue, we’re not able to make any retroactive changes.”
That brings us to today, April 7, 2023.
Turkopticon has not forgotten about all of the workers who are still trying to fix their approval ratings and find work. We still believe that Amazon should overturn the rejections for every turker who was affected, especially since this incident was not the fault of the workers. The requester admitted responsibility and it was Amazon who approved them for an account in the first place. AI Insights clearly violated the TOS. Workers should not pay the price for this.
While we wait for a response to our last email, sent on March 28th, we would encourage the following:
- Workers who were affected – send Turkopticon your story! How was your approval rating affected? Has your access to work decreased? Have you lost your income from the damage done to your account? If you feel comfortable, reach out to customer service and explain your experience (emails and social media handles below)
- Requesters – this affects you, too! It is possible that you lost folks who normally work on your batches and surveys because they no longer have an approval rating that qualifies them to do so. Workers are more cautious, leaving batches to hang out in the system longer (especially those posted by new requesters!) Please stand in solidarity with the workers who complete your tasks and tell Amazon to do right by them.
- Allies – thank you for standing with workers. Please help spread the word and encourage others to reach out to express their thoughts with Amazon.
- Everyone – we still have a petition that contains a solution to the harm caused by mass rejections. We believe it to be a better policy than anything AMT currently has in place. Please sign and share! (link below).
As always, we promise to keep you updated on this issue!
By: Krystal Kauffman