The Costs of Creation: What is a Desirable Future for Monetised Online Work?

The power wielded by the largest online corporations means they are often able to make vast profits exploiting those whose work and skills they benefit from, who receive little to no payment. From individuals creating online content that popularises platforms, to community moderators helping keep their users safe, and open-source developers maintaining the infrastructure on which they depend, much of this work is going unrewarded.

Emerging web monetisation technology could open up a future that could benefit these workers, putting more power in their hands to receive fair payment for their efforts. Yet, it must be developed in a way that realises this potential for those currently most marginalised from fair payment. Moreover, how this technology develops will have knock-on effects for all of us, from how we pay for and access content and services online, to what is deemed online work in the first place. 

These developments bring up an array of complex questions in turn: do those engaged in online work agree over the future of web monetisation? How do we ensure that this technology doesn’t reproduce existing inequalities in whose work is deemed more valuable? Should we monetise online work that is currently done out of goodwill? 

Given the scope of this technological change, it is essential for policymakers and the public to understand what it could mean for the future of our online lives. However, this technology is currently little discussed or widely understood, and further research is needed to explore its potential consequences.

To this end, with the support of Grant for the Web, Demos is convening a group of those who engage in online work for low or no pay to explore what they think is a fair and desirable future for the monetising of online labour. Through this, we will present a clear guide to this developing technology, lay out the views of those who ought to benefit from it, and start a debate about its future.

For further information about this project, please contact Ciaran Cummins at [email protected].