Alcméon, Isahit, Netino, Wirk... the toolbox of click workers
And those who supervise them. No digital economy, no applications, no social networks without moderation of all kinds. No e-commerce, no payment security, without KYC (Know your Customer), compliance calls, photo cropping etc... Dior, Disneyland, Facebook, Le Monde, ManoMano have equipped their workers, their taskers, with tools that make them more efficient and that automate these tasks, their distribution or control their quality. 24/7. What are these tools, and what are the French ones? Do they take into account the health and well-being of click workers? Do the most innovative ones sometimes come under foreign control?
In its 5th edition, the Bottin du Service Client et de l'Hospitalité has created a special category for these facilitators of dirty work, used by companies that give these tasks or by micro-workers, to work better: Disneyland Paris, Dior, SNCF, Youtube, Meetic Le Monde, Facebook, ManoMano...
"All companies operate with a digital component to their business and processes, and are now often obliged to outsource a function or whole areas of their business and equip themselves with the tools they need to comply with the expectations of their customers, supervisory bodies and improve their performance. If they manage to equip themselves with the right tools, they gain in agility and performance, or can avoid a major bug", explains the editor of this Directory. So it's useful to be able to identify a good tool for moderation, electronic signature, facial biometrics, image recognition and time synchronisation, for example. Bodet recently bought out Gorgy Timing, one of the most innovative French companies in this field. This is a good example of a little-known company that escaped being bought out by foreign groups, but in many other cases it doesn't happen like that. Apple bought back 8 decisive patents in 2019, which helped it to make a quantum leap in biometrics and customer journeys. The aim is to list the right toolbox in our directory. And also to give an opinion. Is Moderatus, the tool used by Webhelp, as innovative as those used by Youtube? All these issues are not insignificant: during the health crisis, Youtube decided to make greater use of automatic moderation, without human intervention. They gained in terms of the volume of content processed and checked, but largely lost in terms of efficiency. If you are a French company and this happens to you, there is a real risk of legal action and criminal prosecution".
Who are the many invisible workers of the click?
In mid-April 2022, France 5 rebroadcast a documentary by Henri Poulain, produced by France TV and Story Circus, taking a behind-the-scenes look at the digital services we use every day. Is Siri listening in on our conversations? Who are the moderators who make it as easy as possible for us to read the comments at the bottom of an article or on Facebook? Les Invisibles, les travailleurs du clic took us from Dublin to Madagascar, via Lyon, to meet these anonymous cogs in a sprawling, globalised machine called Zlat, Bilel, Nomena, Marolafy, Chris and Thomas. Deliverers, moderators, whistleblowers, the indispensable human capital behind the digital revolution.
Zlat and Bilel in Lyon: Uber Eats delivery drivers who work 60 hours a week for €400 - which would be just under €1,500 once the 20% claimed by URSSAF has been deducted. The self-entrepreneur has to pay for his own equipment, as does his social security cover, and there's no guarantee that he'll be paid per trip... We're beginning to understand how the application works.
Nathalie, in an imprecise part of France, compares keywords to improve Google searches, checking that they have the same subject. Example: "dijon mustard" and "dijon mustard". She validates. Her explanations are given with a defeated tone that goes beyond simple weariness.
In Madagascar, Nomena and Marolafy. Nomena manages "tasks" for Disneyland on Facebook and Twitter, via the Alcméon platform. She is in fact employed by Netino, a Webhelp subsidiary to which Le Monde, among other press titles, also subcontracts the moderation of its comments. She earns €200 for 48 hours a week. And then there's Marolafy who, after completing a degree in business administration in China, takes care of audio transcription and other similar tasks for Isahit. The "ethical data labelling platform for AI and data processing", as it calls itself, used to hand out the microphone on its Facebook account to its "hiteuses", as it calls its employees, in order to recruit. This has not been the case for at least a year now. In these recruitment campaigns by Isahit, the tasks are presented as a way of supplementing a possible income or keeping financially afloat between two jobs.
In Dublin, Chris Gray moderates content for Facebook, although his contract does not explicitly state this. The violence of the content poured out all day long on the network, and for which he was responsible, finally shook him. In nearby Cork, Thomas Le Bonniec also slipped into the role of whistleblower, after listening to hours and hours of conversations transmitted by Siri, Apple's intelligent assistant. "Siri is not artificial intelligence", he says: "All the work of improvement or machine learning is done by humans". This is no doubt an exaggerated statement, but he immediately qualifies it: "For all the artificial intelligence work, it's people who feed the machine. The main point of the documentary, which today is a commonplace that we don't want to think about too much, is this: at every moment we produce data that feeds the machine for free. There are undoubtedly some good subjects for a philosophy baccalaureate here. In the meantime, the documentary serves as a salutary reminder that what we believe to be entirely or mainly automated conceals genuine human labour. As a note of hope, it ends with an attempt to organise the Uber Eats delivery drivers into a trade union. The results are slow in coming (current contracts are less advantageous than they were three years ago). Or Mensakas, a Barcelona-based home delivery service based on a not-for-profit cooperative model.
To find out more:
What can these tools be used for? Read here, for example, what Wirk is enabling a major bank to do.
In issue 130 of En-Contact magazine, a major report on those involved in moderation, including an account of our visit to Colombia. It's where TikTok is partly moderated, and where a Minister brought down the share price of the world's number 1 company, Teleperformance, with a single tweet.
In issue 129, we have a special feature on Tunisia. Campings.com and Vinted have their calls answered before booking a mobile home in Annecy or to resolve a delivery problem. Tunisia, cradle of French-speaking BPO.