Our bi-monthly DiPLab online seminar will welcome Rafael Grohmann (founder of the DigiLabour Research Lab) for a special session on the working conditions within clickfarms. The seminar will be held online on the platform Big Blue Button. To receive the link, please register by sending an email with your full name and institutional affiliation at: contact@diplab.eu.

Dr Rafael Grohmann is an assistant professor in Communication at the Unisinos University, Brazil, and the coordinator of DigiLabour Research Lab. Principal Investigator for the Fairwork project in Brazil, he is a Founding Board Member of the Labor Tech Research Network. Researcher in the Histories of Artificial Intelligence Project, he received an International Research and Collaboration Award from the University of Cambridge. His research interests include platform cooperativism and worker-owned platforms, work & AI, workers’ organization and platform labor.

Title: Parasite Platforms and Human Bots: The work of Brazilians on clickfarms

The presentation discusses Brazilian clickfarms as ‘parasite platforms’, and workers’ tactics as a means of survival. In the first part, I discuss how clickfarms in Brazil are situated in relation to the platform tree (Van Dijck, in particular social media platforms), and their infrastructural and geopolitical issues. Clickfarm platforms also depend on customers, such as influencers, politicians, and PR agencies. In the second part, I present the working conditions in the clickfarms. For each task, workers earn as little as US$ 0.0011. Under these conditions, workers purchase fake accounts and bots to earn a minimum amount of money. Facebook and WhatsApp groups are turned into marketplaces for selling and buying fake accounts and bots. This is a survival strategy for these workers located in Brazil, whose labor market is historically rooted in informality as a norm of the working class. Some of these tactics are reappropriated by platforms, for the creation of their own bots. If workers are blocked on social media platforms, clickfarms claim they are dishonest and do not pay them. Finally, we argue that faking is a feature, not a bug, of clickfarms. This is predicted and encouraged by the platforms. (This research is conducted by DigiLabour Research Lab with Évilin Matos, Alison Soares, Maria Clara Aquino, Adriana Amaral and Caroline Govari, and funded by Histories of AI project, University of Cambridge).