Scale AI, the data processing company that advertises itself as a way to train generative AI on higher-quality information, has apparently shut down access to its platform in several countries, leaving gig workers in the lurch.

The company, which does much of its data processing through a subsidiary called Remotasks, cut access to its portal for workers in Nigeria, Kenya and Pakistan in  March, according to a report by Rest of World. The gig workers used by Remotask, and by extension Scale, improve data quality by adding labels, annotations, and general human input to information set to be processed by AIs.

The idea is to help AI tools learn by shaping their perceptions of, say, lidar data from cars or other information.

According to Rest of World’s report, workers — many of whom rely on Remotasks for their main income — were greeted by a message saying that “we regret to inform you that at the moment we are unable to provide service in your location.” The report also notes that remote workers “often have few reliable ways to contact supervisors or escalate complaints,” despite the presence of hotlines and Slack channels.

Scale released a statement in September detailing its relationship with Remotasks, which it calls the “data annotation” side of its business. The company said it partners with the Global Living Wage Coalition and conducts quarterly pay analyses to “ensure fair and competitive compensation” for the gig workers annotating its data. Scale also criticized “misunderstandings and mischaracterizations” about the way it treats its workers through Remotasks.

Scale could not be reached for comment on Rest of World’s report, which said that many of the workers affected by the apparent shutdown only found out about it when they attempted to log in and work. According to Rest of World, a company spokesperson blamed the lack of communication with workers on an administrative error, while saying that the shutdowns were put in place for “enhanced security protocols.”

In addition to the shutdowns in Pakistan, Nigeria and Kenya, Rest of World reported that new signups for Remotask work had been blocked in several other countries, including Thailand, India, Poland and Vietnam.

Rest of World’s report ran a day after The Information reported that Scale — which has been one of the AI industry’s early success stories — was up for a new round of funding, courtesy of VC firm Accel, which was an early investor in Scale. The proposed funding round would raise the company’s value to $13 billion, a rise of 80%.

The company joins several other big names in the generative AI industry, including AI-powered robot creators Figure AI, LLM creator Anthropic, and market powerhouse OpenAI in lining up hundreds of millions in new funding from investors desperate to capitalize on the much-hyped technology, according to a report from siliconAngle.

Copyright © 2024 IDG Communications, Inc.

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