Beyond Fair Pay: Ethical Implications of NLP Crowdsourcing
Boaz Shmueli | Jan Fell | Soumya Ray | Lun-Wei Ku
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies
The use of crowdworkers in NLP research is growing rapidly, in tandem with the exponential increase in research production in machine learning and AI. Ethical discussion regarding the use of crowdworkers within the NLP research community is typically confined in scope to issues related to labor conditions such as fair pay. We draw attention to the lack of ethical considerations related to the various tasks performed by workers, including labeling, evaluation, and production. We find that the Final Rule, the common ethical framework used by researchers, did not anticipate the use of online crowdsourcing platforms for data collection, resulting in gaps between the spirit and practice of human-subjects ethics in NLP research. We enumerate common scenarios where crowdworkers performing NLP tasks are at risk of harm. We thus recommend that researchers evaluate these risks by considering the three ethical principles set up by the Belmont Report. We also clarify some common misconceptions regarding the Institutional Review Board (IRB) application. We hope this paper will serve to reopen the discussion within our community regarding the ethical use of crowdworkers.