Mechanical Turk’s Zero Cent Pay Jobs

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 2:56 pm by George Smith

While digital sweat-shopping at Amazon today — it’s the only way your host can earn a few dimes in the American economy these days — I spent a little extra time looking at the phenomenon of Mechanical Turk jobs, human intelligence tasks paying zero cents.

There are loads of them. Two sample screen shots, for your inspection.



Why do people do jobs that pay zero? (Can the “Because it’s something to do, just a hobby” crap.)

Well, Mechanical Turk has a system. If an employer, the infamous requester, rejects your work on a job it’s an indelible black mark. Accumulate too many black marks and your hit approval rate falls below 95 percent. Once you’re below 95 percent you’re persona non grata.

And the qualification ratings requirements posted on most of Mechanical Turk’s jobs forbid your participation.

The only way to get above the flunk mark of Cain, 95 percent, is to do a lot more hits and have them all accepted. Enter the zero cent “human intelligence task,” more use of employer leverage against the desperate.

Another use for zero cent jobs is fraud. You will notice that, remarkably, even many zero cent human intelligence tasks on Mechanical Turk require “qualifications” and “passwords” for entry.

There’s a reason for that.

Here’s an example, a zero cent job posted by enterprising “redditors” at Reddit.


This is a good example of a web circle jerk, one in which the requester is using Mechanical Turk to boost posts into their category at Reddit.


There’s no reason to use a category on Reddit, one called Hits Worth Turking For, to search Mechanical Turk. The search function on Mechanical Turk can do the same thing without leaving the service for an external site.

On the other hand, by getting a Mechanical Turker to post to your category, you have built-in run-itself astro-turfing of your little domain. One with a “donate” badge that leads people to believe they may be eligible for cash rewards for posting the most. And another badge, soliciting purchases through Hits Worth Turking For on Reddit so that the subcategory on Reddit gets a cut.

You can hold the standard libertarian idiocy: “Nobody has to do these jobs!”

Work from home. Don’t get paid. Grease someone else’s petty scam.

You could a couple weeks digging into zero cent jobs and presumably find they’re all predicated on the spirit of digital rip off, one tiny bit at a time.


  1. bill said,

    December 6, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    zero cent jobs zerohedge posters

    Some kind of symbiosis there if I could only figure it out.

    Maybe I could apply to Mechanical Turk for an aptitude test.

  2. George Smith said,

    December 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    My take is they’re a variety of astro-turf and web domain circle jerk operations. The more respectable ones, and they’re still only as respectable as body lice, are the many where the requesters are paying for three hundred or more word articles which wind up posted to domains as data junk filler to make business and social sites look used. At a tenth of a cent a word or sometimes less, there’s no way you get anything more than junk writing because no one with any talent would waste the time or effort. There do seem to be Mechanical Turk workers who do a lot of this type of copy-writing and who seem to think they’re good, but it’s all self-delusion.

  3. Bill said,

    December 7, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Is it just me, or is the libertard point of view not put forward as if it is a much larger population segment than it may really be? I see those ‘opinions’ everywhere I look and they are sometimes full of logical absurdities.

    Perhaps you already answered my question when you explained junk filler in the previous response – I never stopped to consider the possibility that there were actually robo posters paid an inconsequential amount of money to post rubbish.

    And then we compare those types of blogs to a blog like this one, and I shake my head in wonderment. Does a thinking requirement result in pain avoidance on the part of the average person? Perhaps that explains your recent numbers.

    Anyhow, I do enjoy reading Ted Nugent’s Journey to the Center of the Mind installment feature(s) in case I never mentioned it previously. I admit to a mixture of disgust, wonder and LMAO all wrapped inside the same package.
    Too bad Teddy lost his way back when he found the center of his mind.

  4. George Smith said,

    December 9, 2013 at 9:51 am

    No, it’s not you. The libertarian thing makes a lot of noise, it has a foot print that exceeds its actual support. With the right it’s become a grab bag of things, most of them just slogans and rationalizations for hating on the president, hating on the poor and the religion of wealth. No one can seriously think that all the stuff about this comes from the careful consideration of Atlas Shrugged by millions of Tea Partiers and Republicans? Does any majority of Americans strike you as readers of 1000 page philosophical rant on the talent of billionaire railroad and steel tycoons and the evil of the government and mediocre peasantry?

    As for the Mechanical Turk stuff, yes, simple observation leads anybody with sense to come to the conclusion is that it’s a system that’s gamed.
    For example, this morning, something like 465,000 “hits”, or jobs said to be available. I have a 98 percent completion rate on my profile.

    I filter for jobs that earn 40 cents for which I am qualified. I get 150 returns.

    That comes to being eligible for .03 percent of them. I’m either unqualified for well over 99.9 percent of the rest, or most return under 40 cents for completion. But if you winnow it down to a measly 20 cents, you don’t get a magnitude increase in returns. It goes up to maybe 200 jobs.

    So there are a variety of cons and tricks going on having to do with qualifications and these do not quickly reveal themselves. This can be seen in the large number of ZERO CENT jobs which require qualifications and passwords. The reason they require the passing of “qualification” tests and are password protected is that the “requesters” — the employers — are engaged in some manner of scam, illegality of violation of Mechanical Turk terms of service. Violations of terms of service are astro-turfing, soliciting fake reviews, accounts and blog posts, generation of spam, and as with the Reddit example, auto-posting for the purpose of pushing up a category on the service so its ‘redditors’ get some benefit or kickback. The qualifications and password protections are in place to keep workers who might complain about it, out.

    And one of the reasons this isn’t popular is because the description of it is unpleasant. There’s always a withdrawal from such things and it takes some mass to overcome that. Perception of popularity is important.

    On a slightly related bit I’ve noticed the spam being caught here is now more obviously done by actual people, some of whom who’ve read a sentence or two in order to concoct a paragraph before posting with a link to whatever good it is they’ve been assigned to peddle.