When AI Needs a Human Assistant

But while the project itself is well-known, it’s always slightly embarrassing when a company turns up there. In 2017, Expensify was spotted asking mTurk workers to enter data from receipts, leading the company to rush out a statement insisting that the mTurk project had nothing to do with Expensify’s main app. In part, it was a privacy issue, but mostly it was embarrassing: Expensify was built on a simple piece of technology — the ability to extract data from a photo of a receipt — and the mTurk tasks made it look like that technology was a sham. What if it was human beings extracting that data all along?

A turn through Mechanical Turk’s current listings shows those tactics are still alive and well. The biggest name in the current listings is Pinterest, which is currently offering Turkers 40 cents a pop to rule on whether a given post contains health misinformation. Pinterest has struggled with pseudoscience on its platformwith anti-vaccination posts becoming enough of a problem that all vaccine-related content has been banned on the platform since December. But while it’s easy to tell whether a post contains the word “vaccine,” it’s much harder to tell whether it’s making unrealistic health claims or pushing non-medical treatments for serious diseases. Guidelines attached to the task instruct the moderators to strike down exaggerated claims like “Kill sinus infection in 20 seconds,” while leaving up claims like “2 week flat belly challenge” because, as the guidelines put it, “an exercise challenge is not a[n] easy or quick fix.” READ MORE ON: THE VERGE