2012 was a great year for Herdict during which we saw substantial growth in user reporting. I thought I’d kick off 2013 by highlighting our year through facts and figures. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the project, Herdict is a crowdsourced platform for collecting reports about accessible and inaccessible websites, regardless of the root cause of the issue—from filtering to server problems to any other Web blockage.
The question of whether paid crowd work violates U.S. employment and minimum wage laws may finally make it into court thanks to Christopher Otey, an Oregon resident who is suing CrowdFlower Inc. for wages he claims the company owes him as an “employee.”
My initial reaction is that I can’t believe it’s taken this long for someone, somewhere in the United States to sue one of the companies engaged in distributing paid crowdsourcing work for violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Smart lawyers like Alek Felstiner and Jonathan Zittrain have been making some form of the argument that this is a major issue for Crowdsourcing for at least three years now. Felstiner even made the case in a series of posts on CrowdFlower’s blog here, here, and here in 2010. I am hardly the only person to regard as remarkable the fact that a whole venture-funded industry has sprung up around a set of activities that, on the surface, seem to resemble a massive minimum wage violation scheme.
An article in published in Science on Thursday, securely locked behind a paywall, paints a mixed picture of science in the age of social media. In “Science, New Media, and the Public,” Dominique Brossard and Dietram A. Scheufele urge action so that science will be judged on its merits as it moves through the Web. That’s a worthy goal, and it’s an excellent article. Still, I read it with a sense that something was askew. I think ultimately it’s something like an old vs. new media disconnect.
Last October I wrote about the rise in popularity among French Twitter users of the hashtag #unbonjuif ("a good jew"). In December we saw a growth in other offensive hashtags, including the homophophic #Simonfilsestgay, ("if my son is gay") or the xenophobic #SimaFilleRamèneUnNoir ("if my daughter brings a Black man home"). As with #unbonjuif, the "game" consisted of adding messages to these hashhags to create a "joke."
This time the hashtags prompted a response from the government. Najat Belkacem-Vallaud, France’s Minister of Women's Rights, reacted to these offensive tweets by writing an editorial published on December 28 in Le Monde under the title "Twitter must respect the values of the Republic." She described these tweets as being "morally reprehensible and illegal under our laws...."
Belkacem-Vallaud's comments garnered international attention and prompted prominent responses, both in support and against her remarks. While such a regime of state-controlled censorship is unthinkable here in the United States, it serves as an additional data point in the control of hate speech in France. What follows is an analysis of the applicable French law.
A few weeks ago, while I was visiting a city in northern Mexico, I witnessed some of the drug-related violence people have been experiencing almost every day: several bodies were hung from a bridge and a number of shootouts were reported throughout in the city. As if that was not terrifying enough, I was not able to learn about those events through the news media. Instead, like many people in these cities, I learned about them on Twitter. Perhaps even more interesting was the fact that a handful of Twitter users, many of whom are anonymous, have emerged as civic media curators, individuals who aggregate and disseminate information from and to large numbers of people on social media, effectively crowdsourcing local news. We set to investigate this emergent phenomenon by looking at a large archive of Tweets associated with the Mexican Drug War and interviewing some of these new “war correspondents,” as one of them referred to herself.
As Kenyans gear up for the presidential elections in less than 90 days, technology is proving to be a friend and foe to the many politicians embroiled in political musical chairs by changing alliances faster than ordinary Kenyans can comprehend.