The hellish reality of working on the overseas “click farm”
Clicks are the lifeblood of the Internet. Content that does not receive traffic will not be heard, and therefore will not receive popularity. And then why is it needed? Behind every website you browse there is a team of people who frantically try to placate the different inconstancy of the god of clicks. Therefore, in the Philippines there are people like Albert. He worked on the click farm, and his job was to promote Internet content, regardless of whether someone needed it on the Internet or not.
6. Single sounds can cause rabies
Clickfarm farms are centralized sites that are usually located in countries with a growing economy, such as Thailand, India or the Philippines — that is, where, let's say, “free” labor laws. The Farm of Clicks offers to cheat up thousands of views, likes, or subscribers to help content get viral.Of course, all this costs money - usually a thousand likes or similar equivalents cost about $ 50, although sometimes it can cost as little as $ 1. A million followers cost about $ 600.
The work of Albert was to ensure that he visited various websites every day, for 12 hours and seven days a week. We know and understand that you also do this every day, and for free! What a life! And yet, Albert quit his job. Why? Because the clicks began to unnerve him to the very depths of the soul. "The clicks ... they seem to trigger something in me ... they make me nervous."
According to him, at the sound of clicking the keyboard or mouse, he has a certain feeling of “panic” inside. “In the company we worked in a huge room, and she herself was placed in a warehouse. No one talked much, so all that we heard was clicks. Hundreds and thousands of clicks. When I returned home after work, the sound sometimes echoed in me, so I could not use the computer. I could no longer look at the screen, and the clicks annoyed me. ”
The more Albert talked about his work and the strange rules that his employers established, the more his work seemed like something from the dystopia of Terry Gilliam "Brazil."“I had soundproof headphones, but then they banned them. They even banned listening to music. And all I heard is clicks. Even now, when they show on TV how someone clicks, I start to feel bad. Because of this, I only use touch screens. ”
Despite the fact that no studies of neuroses related specifically to clicks have been conducted, we know that sounds that repeat over a long period of time can cause a special kind of anxiety. Albert claims that his symptoms are not entirely unusual. “Many people in my company suffered the same, some after work heard these sounds like the ticking of a clock. Most workers, like me, no longer tolerate click sounds and use touch screens or rubber covers for laptops. Some of the workers covered the keyboard with special rubber caps, they specifically bought them in schools. ”
We never thought that the simple act of using a mouse and keyboard could become a soul-crushing nightmare that poisons all the beauty of human existence. But ... Oh, wait, Twitter. We forgot about Twitter.
five.Thousands of fake Facebook accounts
To generate thousands and thousands of unique clicks, likes and views per day, you will need a lot of accounts. This requires new names, new email addresses, new passwords, and so on. This is a big hassle, and this is a large part of what Albert and his colleagues were paid for. “Before we had technical staff who became directly involved in creating accounts, we created them ourselves. We first registered the email addresses, but then we changed it. We installed a random name generator. The names and names of 1000 boys and girls from the USA were entered into it. There were also variants of these names, such as “John” for “Jonathan”, so in fact there were more options. Then we started the generator.
Some of the resulting options looked strange. For example, the name "John Smith" was quite acceptable, because it is very common, but if you get the name "Donald Sanchez", we could not use it. We were warned about the inadmissibility of mixing national names, because it is rare.In particular, we were told not to mix names that sounded like Spanish with English names. This is common, and judging by what I have seen, in the States it is becoming more and more noticeable. But we could not do that. We were allowed to combine English names with Asian surnames, because it was more or less “normal”, but only Spanish names had to be chosen for Spanish names. ”
For those who grew up in the southwest United States, this sounds extremely stupid. But Albert assures us that his bosses based their decision on precedent. “Some sites caught us a few years ago because we used too much Esmerald Johnson, and that scared my company.”
Mostly Albert's customers wanted fake users with names that seemed American (or at least European). Several times customers wanted to get users from the Philippines. The company had enough employees to simply use their personal Facebook accounts in this case. “As a rule, it took several hours of work and less than an hour to register fake accounts to get all the clicks desired by customers.”
For seven billion people on the planet, there are two billion Facebook accounts. Now Facebook has learned to screen out fake accounts - according to company estimates, they make up about 8.7%. But even if this number is accurate, it still means that there are 174 million fake accounts. The number of fake personalities is comparable to half the population of the United States.
4. To get around the screening algorithms, a lot of work needs to be done.
“You look at the computer for 12 hours. You log into your account, like, log out and repeat it again and again. ” The average American spends about two hours a day in social networks. Imagine that you have to do it six times longer, while pretending to be someone else all the time and constantly worrying about being caught.
“Facebook catches people who click on something too many times or make it too fast. If they catch you, they will block your account. In addition, they see who paid you, so his account is blocked too. You have to be careful. ” By “caution” is meantthat you have to view the cycle from different accounts in all social networks, so that the review seemed rather random and could fool any Instagram, Twitter and other algorithms that were set up to catch people like Albert.
“First we put the likes on Facebook, then we go to SoundCloud and listen to the song. Then I use another account to become someone else on Facebook. Then I go on Twitter. After that I subscribe to DeviantArt and look through someone's pictures. Again put the likes on Facebook. Then I go to Kickstarter and donate a dollar to a specific goal. Then I listen to the song on SoundCloud again. ”
We would consider all this to be an extremely intensive activity, but Albert described only work in a few minutes. “You perform several tasks at the same time: while the song sounds, you go to different sites and put likes. You log in to different accounts and exit them. You have Facebook on one tab, Twitter on another, then YouTube tab. ” We are already tired of just one listing, but these are still toys.
“We track how many likes we put in a day. It may be watching or listening, but “like” is the word that we use for everything.If we are behind the schedule, we get a verbal warning, and if this lag continues even after a few hours, then your personal fan will be disconnected for half an hour. Not the one that blows the computer, but the one that blows on you. If you have too many unproductive days, you can be fired. And it is not always the fault of the staff. You may have your account suspended due to suspicious activity, and you need to wait for it to be unblocked. When this happens, we move on to the next task, but you already know how tight the schedule is. Several such overlays can knock you out of the schedule. "
People in the position of Albert, in the end often lose the digital revolution. “This is a bad job. You are constantly depressed, because you are stalking, doing the same thing all day. And you will not be paid until you have completed all your hours, especially in those days when a customer for millions of subscribers appears. They need all these likes, and you need to constantly log into accounts and leave them, and so on and on, for hours. ”
We never thought we would say this, but it sounds even worse than the usual dependence on the Internet.
3. There is even a physical danger in this work.
Remember the scene from the series Silicon Valley, in which the character hires a farm of clicks in India, and at the end you are shown how it looks.
For Albert, this scene is close to reality. “It's not so dark there. I had bright lights and a small window so we could see the road outside. But the fact that the room is crammed with computers is for sure. You can not imagine how many clicks are heard there. In addition, it is impossible to show that even all fans can not cope with the heat. We had outdated computers. When I worked there, we only began to switch from Vista to Windows 7. "
Have you ever been in a room with a lot of old computers? If so, then you know how much heat they produce. Albert argues that the heat from so many crap machines standing close to each other becomes dangerous for people. “Once we had a short circuit. The computers in the room were set up in such a way that they were arranged in groups of four. One such group burned down, and the whole room stank of burnt plastic. There was a case when one of the technicians got up, and the other at that moment accidentally touched his leg and noticed that it was extremely hot.The technician overheated so much that he didn’t notice anything, but when he lifted his pants, the whole bottom of his leg was cracked and burned. He suffered burns from red-hot computers. ”
But even if the farm worker does not fry from his own car, he is still almost always in a state of paranoia. “A manager may come up to you and see how much you have completed from your list. You will need to minimize your Internet window so that you can see the Word document that lists your tasks. If you shut it down or delete it, you will be fired. ” Remember the comedy “Office Space”, but with bosses who value human life even less than Bill Lemberg.
“When I returned home, I could not use the computer. I did not even watch TV for several days. I had been looking at the screen at work for so long that I could not see other screens. I preferred to look out the window of my apartment or read. Work in the company destroyed me. ”
2. At any time you can get under a government raid.
In most countries, click farms exist on the edge of the law, and there are a number of reasons for this: too many computers, too many SIM cards, participation in fraud.In the Philippines, lawyers say: “A number of laws are potentially being violated - on consumer protection, on unfair trade. After all, in fact you are misleading individual consumers. ” Thus, there is a reason for government pressure. And in the company of Albert was a plan for this case.
“We had a fire evacuation plan, a flood plan, and we also had a plan in case of a police raid. The first two will not surprise anyone, but the third is the one that you need only in a business where money is paid in paper bundles tied with an elastic band.
“The plan was not at all what you thought, it has no destruction of computers or shredding of documents. The plan was that in the event of the appearance of the national police, we should have stayed in our workplaces, did not run away, and do everything we were told. Everything we did was legal, but the laws were constantly changing, and at any time our activities could become illegal. ” Albert's company did not violate the law directly. Employees were told that they must comply with the requirements of the police and not try to save anything.
“There was a small company that did something wrong, and the police came to them. However, all she could dig was to know their current tasks. That's all we have to be ready for. ”
Oddly enough, the main problems that Albert's company faced were irrelevant to burned people, nervous breakdowns due to clicks or the spread of spam. “You need specific licenses in order to have the equipment that we had (that is, numerous rows of computers). We were told that our license was enough, but then we added a few more rows, and we began to introduce additional rules. I think that we worked somewhere officially, but somewhere we didn’t. ”
Oh, how we all know it. We call it “on the edge of the law,” and our lawyers say it’s “really stupid.”
1. Companies care more about being caught than working conditions.
Corporations are happy to get their pages on social networks and want to promote them, including through click farms. But they do not want to know about it. Coca-Cola claimed that it "did not approve of fake fans," but only after, thanks to the click farm, her commercial scored six million views.Albert clearly saw what was happening when it became aware of the appeal of a company to a click farm. The company breaks the agreement.
“I come to work and sit in front of the screen. In the corner, I see a document in Word, in which tasks are not numbered 1,2,3,4,5 ..., but numbered 2,4,7,9,12,13,14. Some of the tasks were canceled, and this is because the company was caught. After a while, we stopped asking about it. New employees were always asked because they did not know. They were answered: “The company canceled the order because it became aware of the appeal to us”. During the day, managers would sometimes come up and say, “Delete all Facebook tasks related to a particular company.” ”
Albert did not want to say how much he earned, but on Thai farms clicks earn up to several thousand a month, while in Bangladesh they receive only 120 dollars a year. But no money is worth it to hang on the Internet for 12 hours a day. But at least one American company that hired Albert's click farm sent its employee to check the working conditions.
“I think he was a scout from a company who wanted to understand what it was like.This is not the most beautiful building, and it is very hot. Instead of asking why the room was so hot (Filipino summer, thousands of overheated computers), he praised us for how fast we print. I think that he judged how happy the employee is by how fast he types. ” You know, some people say that the glass is half full, while others say that the glass is full of human grief. “The same could be said about our damned work. We knew we didn't love her. But the person sent by another company decided that everything was fine. ”
Albert himself does not believe that this is a work for wear. Although he switched to a new and more interesting job, he still does not believe that there was something morally wrong in his old job. He is upset that American companies stop paying at any hint of click-farm. “You are upset because you have been deceived by fake popularity, but for us it was money that we lost. We have seen Facebook responses. People are happy that they learned that some company used fake signatures to cheat the fans, but from our point of view, you admire the fact that they won’t pay us. ”
Damn it, we never thought that by approving authenticity, we caused someone suffering.Thank you, the Internet.