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The "ghost work" of AI is done by low-paid workers across developing countries.


Justice Area(s)

Economic Justice

AI Impact(s)

Economic Harm and Inequity

Exploitation of Workers







Global North

Global South




The hidden ghost work of data cleaning, image labeling, text processing, and content moderation is being performed by back-end workers across developing economies. Much has been written about the wage differentials in digital labor and the insufficient remuneration being paid to surveilled Global South workers doing the “janitorial" labor that keeps digital platforms healthy and productive. Not only this, it has also come to light that many AI assistants are in fact fully powered by real human agents working in low- and middle-income countries. When massive data sets are used to train AI systems, the individual images and videos involved are commonly tagged and labeled. There are millions of low-paid tech workers doing this back-end work.

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