"A unique, wry and often satirical look at the Internet, the modern age and life in general" (there is way too much search-engine competition for the phrase "incoherent ramblings")

Monday, June 11, 2007

Internet sweat-shops, coming soon to a slum near you

Surely it is only a matter of time before the Internet becomes as exploitative as the real world (if it already hasn't) and we are forced to deal with examples of forced/bonded labour and modern-day slavery even in the online world!

I will give you a couple of examples where things seem to be going that way already:

1) you may not be aware of this, though it is not an especially new story (see here for example). Did you know that there are companies who employ workers solely for the purpose of "farming" online "gold" in online games like World of Warcraft? A "day's work" in one of these places means playing an online video game all day every day, solely in order to collect the in-game "gold" (the inverted commas means it's not REAL gold, ok!?), which the company's owner sells for real money to players, usually those with cash, i.e. from Western countries.

Why is it exploitative? Perhaps because as usual, very low-cost (i.e. "low-paid") labour is being used to supply a need in the western markets, but more to the point, it creates a class system within the online world. Well-off, western players play games for fun, poor underprivileged 3rd-world workers slave away within the same game, collecting resources for the rich people so they can continue to have fun.

2) a market exists for extremely low-paid web services, particular blogging. Simply put, someone wants to start up a blog which they will make money from, usually by selling ad space. But they need content for that (content being the current reigning male monarch), and they ain't got none. What do they do? Employ someone to write the content for them, preferably for a pittance. See the Problogger Jobs board for examples of blog-writing jobs that are paid as little as a few dollars per blog post.

What's the problem here? Well, no high-quality blog writer is going to agree to write a blog post a day for $5 per post, unless of course they live in a less-developed country and there we are again... Problem there is, you pay for what you get - I get really cheap Chinese-made T-shirts on my local market, but the sleeves usually fall off after two washes. Likewise, if your blog is in English and you employ a non-native speaker to write it at below-the-breadline wages, you will get what you paid for... A sleeve-less blog. But there's a market for those, too...

So much for the internet being some kind of egalitarian Utopia...

With all this in mind, I would like to hereby declare that no cheap 3rd world labour was used to create any of the posts on Future-Phobia, and incidentally, no animals were harmed in the site's making either.