Google has stopped working with the Australian firm Appen, which prepared data for training artificial intelligence language models, including the Bard chatbot and the Google search engine.
“The decision to terminate the contract was made as part of our ongoing efforts to re-evaluate and adjust many of Alphabet’s supplier partnerships to ensure that our interactions with suppliers are as effective as possible,” Google spokesperson Courtenay Mencini said in a statement to The Verge. Appen notified the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), saying it had “no prior knowledge of Google’s decision to terminate the contract.”
Employees at companies like Appen often perform the most labor-intensive tasks associated with AI training – work that is low-paid and often undervalued by the industry, although it is at the core of it. Last year, some Appen employees who belong to the Alphabet Employees Union asked their management to increase their wages from $10 to $15 an hour. We managed to achieve a salary increase, but not to the desired level. Many of these employees were subsequently fired, citing business conditions among Appen management.
Experts note that the problem of low-paid contractor labor is relevant for the entire AI industry. For example, content moderators in Kenya sued Meta over its low hourly rate of $2.20 for viewing inappropriate content.