This is not real grass. And that’s not a real comment, either.
Most stories written about online crowdsourcing discuss the philanthropic aspects of people around the world pitching in on a task, like helping out in a study or identifying photographed objects for the blind. Sure, the microtasks are usually tedious, but they need humans to do them and they provide an income stream, albeit a small one, to people who have no other way to make a livelihood. It’s all good, right?
Well, as it turns out, there are other, darker tasks that only humans can do. Specifically, writing spam comments, participating in online discussions to promote brands, making new social media profiles specifically to skew the conversation on a particular topic, and other, similar practices that UC Santa Barbara professor Ben Zhao calls “crowdturfing.” (That’s a portmanteau of “crowdsourcing” and “astroturfing,” the process of faking grassroots involvement.) As detailed in an ArXiv paper, Zhao and colleagues found that this “evil crowdsourcing on a very large scale” consumes the vast majority of business on crowdsourcing sites: On the second-largest such site in the US, ShortTask, 95% of the transactions were crowdturfing (the largest, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, which actively roots out such tasks, had 12%). Zhubajie and Sandaha, major Chinese crowdsourcing sites, turned out to be 88% and 92% ‘turfing tasks, with more than a million dollars paid for crowdturfing each month on Zhubajie alone. Read More
An image analyzed by the researchers, before retouching, after retouching, with an overlay that shows the strongest retouching in red, and with two facial overlays showing other measures of retouching.
What’s the News: It’s not news that in the age of Photoshop, celebrities and models in magazines have started to look like perfect aliens crash-landed among we ugly Earthlings. But though sometimes it’s obvious when a photo editor has gone too far (witness the Ralph Lauren her-head’s-bigger-than-her-pelvis debacle), the gap between what real people look like and what magazines and other media regularly show has grown distressingly wide without most people consciously noticing it, creating a sea of misinformation that may contribute to body-image disorders.
An analytical tool developed by Dartmouth scientists, though, picks up and quantifies those alterations, potentially providing a useful metric for policymakers looking to set boundaries on how much limb-stretching, torso-trimming, face-smoothing alteration is appropriate.