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Thread: Aaron Sojourner, University of Minnesota, manipulates Turk Opticon for a study

  1. #11
    *** Forum Supporter *** Tribune's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by taintturk View Post
    It seems that ethics and research do not go together genoa. He had approval from the IRB, but they are conducting an investigation into his possible breech of the university code of conduct and misuse of the computer systems.

    He just posted a list of over 20 requester names he made on amazon and a list of dozens of email addresses for fake TO accounts.
    Just ridiculous.
    tpKSuL5.jpg

    Before he gave us the longer list posted by Taintturk, Dr. Sojourner posted a list of 53 email addresses, claiming they were the ones used for the sockpuppet worker accounts.

    Analysis of that list suggests that they are sockpuppets, too .. but they are not our sockpuppets.
    University of Minnesota has so many sanctioned "deception" studies going on that its researchers cannot even keep their lies straight.

    SKKeSm5.jpg

    For Turkopticon, these guys invented
    64 falsified worker accounts ("sockpuppets") to support TO phony reviews
    39 falsified requester accounts (of which 12 were a control group with no bogus reviews)

    IMO this did not merely violate criminal laws of Minnesota and California (for criminal conspiracy as well as computer hacking): the project was of sufficient scope that multiple subprojects counted as predicate acts for US Federal racketeering laws under RICO 18 USC 96. (One salient feature of RICO is that it authorizes private civil lawsuits against the racketeers).

    I do hope anyone impacted by this will consider filing a formal complaint. (If you pay taxes in the US, you paid for a pro rata portion of this "study").

    IRB No. 1405E-50363
    principal investigators: Dr. Akhmed Umyarov, Dr. Aaron Sojourner, Dr. Alan Benson
    "The Value of Employer Reputation in the Absence of Contract Enforcement: A Randomized Experiment"

    Dr. Michael Oakes volunteered to serve as Turkopticon's contact:
    University of Minnesota IRB
    IRB Chair J. Michael Oakes, Ph.D. (Associate Professor, Division of Epidemiology)
    University of Minnesota
    1300 South 2nd Street
    Minneapolis, MN 55454-1015
    voice: 612.624.6855
    email: oakes007@umn.edu
    fax: 612.624.0315


    Quote Originally Posted by taintturk View Post
    I guess what it comes down to is that it is better to trust the people here on TN who you have worked with for years as opposed to using TO as a definitive review site.
    I hope Taintturk isn't ready to give up on Turkopticon altogether.

    Sometimes, people lie. But I won't give up on TO as a tool for worker self-empowerment until they yank it from my cold twitching fingers.
    Most lies are on a smaller scale than this: there is a difference between retail and wholesale.


    IANAL: I hope to organize an informal working group to attend technical legal issues related to this, and any similar escapades in the future.
    If you wish to participate, please send PM, or write me directly at Tribune@riseup.net

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  3. #12
    *** Forum Supporter *** Tribune's Avatar
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    I've been impressed by the quality of TO reviews written by clickhappier, who also quantified "the wages of sin" for the Minnesota researchers in this post. -- Tribune

    ---------------

    Public university employee earnings are considered public information, and in many areas in recent years, newspapers have started requesting that information and making it available online. I thought about this after writing my above comment about apparent lack of empathy, that it might add a little context to how things could have ended up in this situation. The University of Minnesota?s 'total pay' data for recent years has been put online at http://extra.twincities.com/car/salaries/default.aspx (the server is quite slow).

    Alan Benson - Assistant Professor - finished PhD at MIT in 2013
    U of M - 2013 - ALAN BENSON - TWIN CITIES - ASSISTANT PROFESSOR - $135,000

    Aaron Sojourner - Assistant Professor - finished PhD at Northwestern University in 2009
    U of M - 2013 - AARON SOJOURNER - TWIN CITIES - ASSISTANT PROFESSOR - $133,000
    U OF M - 2012 - AARON SOJOURNER - TWIN CITIES - ASSISTANT PROFESSOR - $148,128
    U OF M - 2011 - AARON SOJOURNER - TWIN CITIES - ASSISTANT PROFESSOR - $145,623
    U OF M - 2010 - AARON SOJOURNER - TWIN CITIES - ASSISTANT PROFESSOR - $147,067

    Akhmed Umyarov - Assistant Professor - finished PhD at NYU in 2010
    U of M - 2013 - AKHMED UMYAROV - TWIN CITIES - ASSISTANT PROFESSOR - $139,228
    U OF M - 2012 - AKHMED UMYAROV - TWIN CITIES - ASSISTANT PROFESSOR - $165,000
    U OF M - 2011 - AKHMED UMYAROV - TWIN CITIES - ASSISTANT PROFESSOR - $165,400

    They express concern for vulnerable workers intellectually, but based on their actions in this research and the above data, I think they are far removed from the kind of situation where the amounts of money most people earn on mturk would've seemed that important to them emotionally.

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    Even though I don't rely on TO any more I did benefit greatly from them when I first started turking. When you're just starting out it is a really good way of finding the best requesters. For TO to have attained such a good reputation among the turking community and have this assault on them is incorrigible. I don't know how TO's is legally organized, but it might be good idea to be registered a NGO or even a Corp. status in order make available certain legal protections that follow. It's a shame that what probably started out as an informal volunteer website would need to be concerned such matters, but from this experience it appears to be a necessity. It's really a terrible occurrence that a respected (?) research institution would hijack the site to be used as their own sandbox for conducting research. In this Facebook age where many feel it is ok to manipulate innocent folk for their own gain this experience shows in a small way how really, really bad people can be. I hope the academic research community will police themselves on this, but I'm not holding my breath.

    This shows how thankful we at TurkerNation should be for Spamgirl and the other benevolent dictators who police what can and cannot be posted here. This forum is like an oasis in the middle of an information desert in providing honest, reliable information for those of us who use AMT.

    Okay, so much for my rant!

    hth
    ----------------------------
    -Robert

    Ever wonder what the speed of lightning would be if it didn't zigzag?

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    I'm not surprised at all about this. I've worked around academics and most of them are phonies. They talk a good game about pay inequality, but they sure don't live up to it with their own research. For them their "contribution" is complaining about it and calling attention to it. Other people are supposed to step up and dig deep, but not them.

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  9. #15
    This is so crazy! definitely feeling like a ding dong for doing on of these hits.

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  11. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by annataxxxi View Post
    This is so crazy! definitely feeling like a ding dong for doing on of these hits.
    I personally performed one of the HITs which asked for my numbers.
    In my case, it is information I publicly post on a regular basis, so it might also have been obtained by a Google search .. or simply by asking me.

    Only through sharing details of our experiences can workers avoid deceptive requesters.
    I'm glad we have TO to expose the deceptions by CrowdClearinghouse aka Michael Toomim, for example.

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    Thank you guys for all you do for us behind the scenes!
    After following the links and reading a lot of the posts, I now have a better idea of some of the things you do for us that we have no clue what all is involved. (All the drama was fascinating reading. I couldn't quit until I got to the very last post.)
    I have a new awareness of the efforts you put into protecting our backs. I have no words to express the appreciation you deserve. Just "Thank you!" seems inadequate, but flowery phrases wouldn't say it adequately, either.
    Last edited by EMfromOZ; 07-20-2014 at 10:26 AM.
    Follow the yellow brick road.


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    Quote Originally Posted by taintturk View Post
    I guess what it comes down to is that it is better to trust the people here on TN who you have worked with for years as opposed to using TO as a definitive review site. If you want to know about a requester, pop into chat and talk about them.
    I always take reviews and ratings on any website with a grain of salt. It's simply a fact that fake reviews/ratings can be created very easily.

    Thank you Tribune, Taintturk and Spam for presenting this here, very comforting to know you guys are here

    What kind of steps can TurkOpticon take to ensure this doesn't happen again?

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  17. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by tigger View Post
    I always take reviews and ratings on any website with a grain of salt. It's simply a fact that fake reviews/ratings can be created very easily.

    Thank you Tribune, Taintturk and Spam for presenting this here, very comforting to know you guys are here

    What kind of steps can TurkOpticon take to ensure this doesn't happen again?
    IMO this is an excellent question. (I have not yet even finished framing a formal ethics complaint).

    I don't think there is widespread sentiment for taking legal action; there's probably a range of economical ways to publicize the story and deter additional mischief.
    (I fear that "ensure" is too strong a word).

  18. #20
    What really gets me is that I can understand 1 stupid researcher, I can't understand a whole panel of stupidity. You don't go into Denny's or Wal-Mart try to get personal information or disrupt a business in the name of research. My office is my home, but it's still my place of business. Same for all of us, and the same for the creators of TO. We all come together for one goal, protecting our business.

    I'm in favor of legal action if someone were to go a step forward, I'd contribute. If anything it'd teach the next reaseacher not to F with us.

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