The Crowdsourcing Scam | The Baffler

It’s all the same Silicon Valley scam. Whether you are a musician or a cab driver, this about labor, and you could be next…

Silicon Valley calls this arrangement “crowdsourcing,” a label that’s been extended to include contests, online volunteerism, fundraising, and more. Crowdsourced work is supposed to be a new, more casual, and more liberating form of work, but it is anything but. When companies use the word “crowdsourcing”—a coinage that suggests voluntary democratic participation—they are performing a neat ideological inversion.

The kind of tentative employment that we might have scoffed at a decade or two ago, in which individuals provide intellectual labor to a corporation for free or for sub-market wages, has been gussied up with the trappings of technological sophistication, populist appeal, and, in rare cases, the possibility of viral fame.

But in reality, this labor regime is just another variation on the age-old practice of exploiting ordinary workers and restructuring industrial relations to benefit large corporations and owners of the platforms serving them. The lies and rhetorical obfuscations of crowdsourcing have helped tech companies devalue work, and a long-term, reasonably secure, decently paying job has increasingly become a MacGuffin—something we ardently chase after but will likely never capture, since it’s there only to distract us from the main action of the script.


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