For creators and workers

Are you a content creator who shares content on a platform like YouTube, Twitch, or Instagram? Or a worker who does work on a platform like Mechanical Turk, Upwork, or Clickworker? Or maybe you complete tasks in the physical world, like mystery shopping, promotion checks, or other tasks, that you find via an app like Streetspotr or appJobber? This page is for you.

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We prepared an overview of information for you about:

  • Your rights and legal situation as a platform creator or worker
  • Organizations that may be able to help you if you find yourself in a dispute with a platform operating company or a client
  • What to look for in a “good” platform, and what to watch out for and avoid
  • What FairTube is doing to improve fairness and transparency on labor platforms and how you can get involved

Your rights and legal situation as a platform creator or worker

Sometimes problems come up in platform work – your account is suspended or deactivated, the client or platform refuses payment for a job you have already done, there are suspicions about fraud, or you get a bad rating. What can you do as a platform worker in situations like this? What rights do you have under the law? Unfortunately that depends on many things, like if you are an employee of the platform (or client) or self-employed, what country or region you are working in, and the legal terms of the platform. But here we can give you some advice.

Are you working on a platform that has signed the Crowdsourcing Code of Conduct?

If you are working on a platform that has signed the Crowdsourcing Code of Conduct, you can file a complaint with the Ombuds Office of the Code of Conduct to help in resolving the dispute. Please note that to file a complaint with the Ombuds Office, you must first have attempted to contact the platform directly to resolve the problem.

Other platforms

The first step is usually to try to resolve the problem directly with the other party (usually the client or the platform).

If you have a dispute with a client (for example, you have received a bad rating for work you completed that you do not believe is fair, or you were refused payment for work that you completed that you thought you should be paid for), you should try contacting the client, if possible, to address the dispute.

When contacting the client it is in your best interest to be concise, clear, neutral, and direct but polite. Do not insult or threaten the client! This will not help you. Here is an example message for nonpayment. You can adapt this message as you like. If, for example, you know the title or number of the task in question, you should add this information to make it easier for the client to investigate the situation. If you know the name of the client, you can replace “client” with their name (or client name).

Dear client, I saw that I was refused payment for a task that I completed for you on September 15, 2020. I believe that I completed this task in accordance with the task description, and that accordingly I should be paid for it. Would you be willing to check that the refusal of payment was not made in error, and if so to make the payment? If indeed the refusal was made intentionally, I would request a written message to this effect with an explanation for the reason. I would ask for a reply to this message by October 1, 2020. Thank you very much.

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If your dispute is with a client, and the client does not reply to your message, you can try sending a second message after a week or two. Again, keep it polite and concise, and indicate that you previously sent a message. If the client does not reply, you can contact the platform operator. Here again, keep your message and polite and concise as possible.

If the client or platform does not reply to your message, or refuses to resolve the problem in a manner you find satisfactory, you can consider your next steps.

If you suspect that the client or platform is in violation of an applicable law, you can consider your legal options.

Legal options are generally limited on platforms, unless you are an employee of the platform or client (or believe you have been misclassified as an independent contractor but should have been classified as an employee), or you believe that the platform has violated their own legal terms.

It is however worth noting that if you are in the European Union or California:

  • You may have a legal right to a written explanation for payment refusal and account suspension or deactivation, and you may have a legal right to contest such decisions.
  • You may also have a legal right to request a copy of all your “personal data” or “personal information,” which may include ratings, qualifications, work history data, and any reasons a client or platform may have for refusing to pay for completed work or suspending or deactivating your account.

For more information regarding these rights, you can look at the following links:

Organizations that may be able to help you if you find yourself in a dispute with a platform or client

Unions and worker organizations are supporting creators and workers on platforms and taking action to improve working conditions in several countries. If you are a creator or worker on a platform in one of these countries, these organizations may be able to help you if you have a dispute or other questions about your platform work.

UnbenanntFor platform workers we recommend the website Fair Crowd Work. There you can find a list of trade unions around the world which are open to crowd workers, reviews regarding the working conditions of platforms and much more!

What to look for in a good platform, and what to avoid

One thing to look for is whether the platform has signed the Crowdsourcing Code of Conduct or not. The main advantage of this is that if you have a dispute with such a platform, you can file a complaint with the Ombuds Office of the Code of Conduct. The odds are good that the Ombuds Office will be able to help resolve your complaint to your satisfaction.

However, you may wish to work in an area where the biggest platforms have not signed the Code of Conduct – as a result, you may find that none of the platforms you are considering have signed the Code of Conduct. (For example, this may be the case if you are looking to work in transportation, delivery, care, or graphic design.)

If this is the case, there are still a few questions you can ask before starting work on the platform that may help you avoid regrets later.

First, do you know anyone who was worked on/for this platform? Are they still working on it? In their experience, what was good about it and what was bad about it?

Even if you don’t know anyone personally, you can often look online for people talking about their experiences on different platforms. For example on the WorkOnline subreddit you can find many discussions about different online platform work opportunities – the pros and cons of each, and advice that may help you to be successful once you have started working.

Second, what do their legal terms (or “terms of service” or “terms and conditions”) say? Sometimes these are very long, complicated, and hard to understand, but here are a few questions to try to answer as you read (or skim) over them:

  • Are you considered an employee of the platform, or a self employed person (or “independent contractor”)?
    • If this is not clear from the terms (for example, there is nothing that says “you are not an employee but you are an independent contractor” or similar), one sign that you are probably considered an independent contractor is that the platform legal terms refer to workers by a “special name” unique to the platform, like “taskers”, “partners”, etc.
  • Are the rules about when and why the platform can suspend, deactivate, or close your worker account clear and fair?
  • Are the rules about when and how much you will be paid for your work clear and fair? (If a client/customer can refuse to pay you for work after you have worked, are the rules about this clear and fair? Will the platform get involved in disputes, or is it “your problem”?)
  • Can you contact the platform if you have questions or problems?
  • Does the platform inform you for whom you provide a service or does it inform you about the type of service you have to provide before you accept a task/job?
  • Is the platform transparent about evaluating your work or you as a worker?
  • Does the platform grant the right to access or view your personal data?
  • Does the platform inform you about changes to its terms and conditions and does it grant you the right to object to them with a period of notice?

What does “fair” mean?

for platforms and clients

Fair means that the platform:

  • informs you about changes concerning you
  • is transparent (this means you understand how important decisions affecting you are made)
  • gives reasons for any negative decisions affecting you (bad ratings, nonpayment, account closure, etc.), and
  • gives you the right to object to such decisions
  • has reasonable deadlines within which you can exercise your rights (for example to object)

What FairTube is doing to improve fairness and transparency on labor platforms and how you can get involved

The FairTube team works with several different groups to improve fairness and transparency on labor platforms:

  • We support and work with individual creators and platform workers to resolve problems and disputes with clients and platform operators, including demonetization, payment refusal, and account closure.
  • We work with platform clients and operators to develop and support adoption of “best practices” from the client/platform side, so that platforms improve over time and there are fewer problems and disputes.
  • We give many interviews to journalists and researchers to communicate the “pros and cons” of working on platforms.
  • We participate in policy discussions at national, European, and UN levels about policy options for improving platform work.