Rev, the $1-a-minute audio transcription gig economy platform that’s been in the news lately for slashing payouts to contractors and an ensuing backlash, had its transcribers listen to content “relating to sex and child abuse without prior warning,” Business Insider reported on Friday.
According to Business Insider, one Rev transcriber from Ireland said she felt as though she was under pressure to accept a job involving an interview with a child sex-crime victim. That worker said she felt compelled to work on the project because it is tough to find “clear audio” projects on the platform, which can be performed in faster time, and that by the time she realized the disturbing nature of the recording, she had passed a grace period to turn the project down without consequences that could include termination.
“There was no warning, just that the topic was legal,” the Rev transcriber, who was not named, told Business Insider. “I had lost my hour grace period to reject the job by the time I’d reached the sensitive content, so if I’d sent the job back I’d be at risk of losing my job with Rev.”
Another contractor told Business Insider that they worked on a sexual assault recollection that did not disturb her, but she felt uncomfortable working on another transcription job involving a child on a topic the Rev worker “did not go into detail about.” Of the 15 contractors the site spoke with, none identified any mechanism by which Rev informed workers that they could be tasked with transcribing content involving sensitive content. Rev also “could not confirm or deny” where there is a screening process for audio submissions that flags such files before they are farmed out to its network of contractors, Business Insider wrote.
Rev contractors previously told Gizmodo that their average compensation is down to under $5 an hour, while attempts to organize on company forums have been quashed. Rev contractors are paid per job, which means they compete to sort through troves of low-quality audio to find clear material that can be completed in a shorter amount of time. Business Insider reported that one Rev contractor, identified as Sloan from Canada, said competition for those clearer audio files is so brutal that workers often only have seconds to determine whether they want to claim a particular project. Others described a feedback system for customers that often saw them dinged for minor errors or unfairly treated, which can result in account cancellation.
Other tech platforms often unload unpleasant work to contractors at bargain-barrel rates, such as Facebook, many of whose moderators work for contracted companies and say they face horrific working conditions. Workers say cutthroat competition and grueling hours for little compensation is also rampant throughout other gig economy companies ranging from Amazon’s Flex delivery service (one of whom described contractors there as “treated like animals”) to Uber’s ridesharing business.
“Many people struggle to survive on this pay, but for various reasons do not have many other alternatives,” one contractor told Gizmodo. “Many Rev workers are disabled in ways that make it very difficult for them to access more traditional workplaces to earn a living.”