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Professional Translators Against Crowdsourcing and Other Unethical Business Practices
Téma indítója: paula13

paula13  Identity Verified
Argentína
Local time: 07:42
Tag (2005 óta)
Dec 17, 2009

Dear colleagues,

Translators for Ethical Business Practices (TEBP) has just created its first online petition against crowdsourcing on Facebook and Twitter. If you would like to sign this petition, please click here. You don't have to be a member of the group to sign. Also, if you support our cause please share this link with your friends.

Best,
TEBP

Here's the petition text for those who are interested:

For the past few months, professional translators and interpreters all over the world have been expressing their concerns over the ethical problems posed by crowdsourcing and how this practice negatively impacts an already suffering industry, but our concerns have not been heard and more unethical practices have arisen as a result of crowdsourcing. The reasons why we are against crowdsourcing are the following:

1. Professional translation requires years of training, extensive general culture, and excellent command of both the target and source languages. The job of translators and interpreters is not simply to translate words, but rather to convey meaning and concepts as well as to provide cultural localization. This is why being “bilingual” or “knowing another language” is not enough to be a translator. We train, we study, and then we train some more... and for all that hard work we, as any other professional, feel we deserve fair rates and recognition. Crowdsourcing bases itself on non-professional translation provided either by people who are not qualified to translate in the first place (which shows utmost disregard for language and language professionals) or by people who, as a result of other unethical practices, are desperate to find ways of promoting their services and hope this form of exploitation will later translate into paid work.

2. We are users of the sites that resort to crowdsourcing and we feel insulted that the sites we are supporting show such disrespect for our line of work. We don’t see sites like Twitter and Facebook asking doctors who use their sites to provide free online medical services. We don’t see Twitter and Facebook asking lawyers who use their site to provide free online legal services. So we wonder, why do we see Twitter and Facebook asking professional translators who use their sites to provide free online services?

3. For years, universities and professional associations have been providing certification to translators as a way of raising industry standards and homogenizing linguist quality. We ask, what ethical and professional criteria (if any) do sites like Twitter and Facebook use to provide “awards” and “recognitions” to their “best” translators? Where exactly did these sites get the authority to do so?
Translation and interpretation are not hobbies or pastimes, they are professions. As users and supporters of the sites that are resorting to crowdsourcing we ask that these practices stop, that they leave translation to the pros, that they pay translators fair rates for their work, and that they show respect not only for language and culture, but also for their users. This petition was created by the group Translators for Ethical Business Practices, but we feel we speak on behalf of all translators and interpreters and invite all our colleagues (including non-members) to sign this petition and make their voices heard.


Professional Translators Against Crowdourcing and Other Unethical Business Practices Petition


[Edited at 2009-12-17 16:30 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-12-17 17:01 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-12-17 17:07 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-12-17 17:49 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-12-17 17:51 GMT]


 

Susanna Garcia  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:42
olasz - angol
+ ...
Amendments Dec 17, 2009

Paula, this is a great idea but I think it needs a couple of corrections otherwise it detracts somewhat from the point being made:

- could you change the link to 'crowdsourcing'

- should this read 'legal services' rather than 'medical'

'We don’t see Twitter and Facebook asking lawyers who use their site to provide free online medical services.'

It leaves the writer open to criticism - just what we don't need.

Signing up now!

Suzi


 

paula13  Identity Verified
Argentína
Local time: 07:42
Tag (2005 óta)
TÉMAINDÍTÓ
Thanks for the heads-up! Dec 17, 2009

Thanks for your comments Suzi! I just changed the statement here and am trying to figure out how to edit the petition on the online petition site.icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2009-12-17 17:04 GMT]


 

Francisco de Azevedo (X)
Argentína
Local time: 07:42
francia - spanyol
+ ...
Very valuable action Dec 17, 2009

Thank you, Paula, for this very valuable initiative. Hopefully, enough people and users will sign it to at least send a clear message to the companies responsible for crowd sourcing practices.

Fran

[Edited at 2009-12-17 18:07 GMT]


 

Tina Vonhof
Kanada
Local time: 04:42
Tag (2006 óta)
holland - angol
+ ...
Just a question Dec 17, 2009

Do you think it might be helpful to begin by explaining what 'crowdsourcing' is???

 

Marek Daroszewski (MrMarDar)  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:42
angol - lengyel
+ ...
Petition closed.... Dec 17, 2009

Hmmm, just tried to sign it and, alas, the petition is closed for new signaturesicon_frown.gif

Marek


 

paula13  Identity Verified
Argentína
Local time: 07:42
Tag (2005 óta)
TÉMAINDÍTÓ
Open for business Dec 17, 2009

Hi everyone!

Thanks for your feedback, while I was fixing the errors Suzi pointed out I had to take the petition down. But we're up and running again. So if you haven't already signed it, it's open! If you already did, it would be great if you could sign it again.

This is my first online petition, so I'm sorry I was a bit clumsy! Thanks for your patience and support.

BTW, Tina, I wrote something on crowdsourcing a while back. Here's the link in case you're interested. http://translationandethics.blogspot.com/2009/11/why-i-wouldnt-translate-twitters-figs.html

Best,
Paula


 

Adam Łobatiuk  Identity Verified
Lengyelország
Local time: 12:42
Tag (2009 óta)
angol - lengyel
+ ...
Why doctors and lawyers? Dec 17, 2009

Do Twitter and Facebook provide medical and legal services as part of their offering? I think the petition should mention, for example, web authoring services, which is what they use.

Besides, this looks like professional journalists complaining about people writing blogs. I find crowdsourced translations substandard, but if the companies in question don't think that hurts their image, then fine. If the users are unhappy, they can get involved and improve the translations. There will always be demand for quality translation and for translation of any quality as long as it conveys the message.


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
Egyesült Királyság
Local time: 11:42
francia - angol
+ ...
The substance of the claim needs to be clearer Dec 17, 2009

As it stands, this petition just makes the people signing it sound like silly, uninformed whingers and does no service to our profession whatsoever. It's either based on false claims, or needs to substantiate the claims it is making.

If there are thousands of people around the world willing to spend a few minutes of their time helping other users I'm not sure that's necessarily unethical. It may be a bit *inconvenient* to the person who's trying to make people pay for something that others would do for free, but I'm not sure that necessarily makes it *unethical*. We weren't born programmed to make our living selling translation and nothing else; it's what we chose to do at the end of the day.

Now if crowdsourcing actually results in translations that are unfit for their purpose, that's a different matter. But if that's the case, it would be helpful to the cause to provide some actual examples and evidence of this, rather than just whinging.

Like it or not, you have to accept that there are some types of translation that *don't* require somebody specifically trained/dedicated to translation (are you really saying that 100 bilinguals, "certified" or not, can't between them figure out how to translate the phrase "my friends"?).

In the cases of translation where a genuine aptitude for writing and/or genuine technical knowledge is required, is there evidence that people with these skills are not among the people providing their crowdsourced services for free? Is there any actual evidence of, say, a German PhD student who has spent several years reading in the target language on a daily basis, doing a worse job than a "professional" German translator in the field, or doing a job unfit for the purpose to which the user of the crowdsourcing system intends to put it?

Don't get me wrong-- as a translator myself, I'm all for standing up for our profession. But it needs to be done with rational argument and concrete evidence, not just pure bluff and whinging.

[Edited at 2009-12-17 18:34 GMT]


 

Ali Bayraktar  Identity Verified
Törökország
Tag (2007 óta)
angol - török
+ ...
Thanks Dec 17, 2009

..for such initiatives. They are very important indeed.

But crowdsourcing damages the industry less than Machine Translations.

What about to start an initiative against Google and other MT Producers and make them provide MT services not free of charge but payable. (I am sure a good lawyer will find something that would limit their actions- such as damaging languages etc)

Just suggesting...

Thank you again for your sensitiveness

M. Ali


 

paula13  Identity Verified
Argentína
Local time: 07:43
Tag (2005 óta)
TÉMAINDÍTÓ
Thanks and examples... Dec 17, 2009

@ Adam: Thanks for your comment. I guess my mind went straight to lawyers because I’m a law student. I really like your analogy a lot better though. Wish I had thought of it!icon_smile.gif

@ Neil: I respect your opinion and appreciate that you took the time to share it. You’re right, anyone can translate “my friend” but not just anyone can translate user agreements, privacy statements, and other adhesion contracts on the site. You wrote, “In the cases of translation where a genuine aptitude for writing and/or genuine technical knowledge is required, is there evidence that people with these skills are not among the people providing their crowdsourced services for free?” Yes! Read your user agreements on both sites in any given language… they were crowdsourced! If you run a little google search, you’ll find there has been quite a lot of public criticism to these sites thanks to errors in their legally binding, crowdsourced, contracts.

They’ve also come across problems in certain languages, like Turkish, where users thought it would be funny to translate error messages as insults.
Crowdsourcing does not end there though, a few days ago, a very large pharmaceutical company published its new strategy for having its current bilingual employees translate all its protocols, informed consent forms, etc. using crowdsourcing.

A major software company announced the day before yesterday it’s encouraging its 400,000 work force in 170 countries to “contribute” to the development of “an automatic language translation tool.” The program will rely on internal crowdsourcing and statistics to render real time translation.

@ M Ali: I agree, MT is a huge problem as well. For now, we can probably view them as two separate issues, but if software companies continue to rely on crowdsourcing to correct their programs, things will only get worse. As far as what a lawyer could do, I can’t address that on the site because I was informed in a different forum that it is against site rules to make legal interpretations in forums, but I agree with you. From a legal point of view I think there’s a lot that can be done.


 

Elvira_B  Identity Verified
Olaszország
Local time: 12:43
angol - olasz
+ ...
My opinion Dec 17, 2009

There are many kids of freelance professions on the net. The first category that comes to my mind are webmasters. Actually many websites offer the "create your website for free", an unethical initiative that could have (and maybe did) endangered freelance webmasters. Do you think all webmasters should sign a petition against such initiatives or take steps to forbid free website template download?
I made my website by myself, downloading a free template. Actually my website has poor professional features and if I want a professional looking website I'll have to pay for it.
It happens the same with translations, people will always try the cheap solution but have to pay for professional service.
I'm not that much worried about crownsourcing than I was about machine translations.


 

FarkasAndras
Local time: 12:43
angol - magyar
+ ...
Agree - with Neil Coffey Dec 17, 2009

Neil Coffey wrote:

As it stands, this petition just makes the people signing it sound like silly, uninformed whingers and does no service to our profession whatsoever. It's either based on false claims, or needs to substantiate the claims it is making.


Completely agree.
If all you can say is "It'd be so great if I did the job you guys do for free and got paid for it", well, then it's better not to say anything.

Citicising crowdsourcing for damaging our business is narrow-minded, selfish and ultimately pointless. If the model works (the translations are good enough) then they are going to use it and there is nothing wrong with that at all. More power to them.
Complaining about how "we deserve fair rates and recognition" comes across as whinging. In a market economy, the market decides how much a service is worth and that's that. You can't force people to pay as much as you think is fair.


Bottom line: if you can clearly demonstrate that the crowdsourced translations are vastly inferior to what professionals deliver, demonstrate it to the operators of these sites and convince them that we are worth their money. Otherwise, congratulate them and the people who generously offered their collaboration for free.


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
Egyesült Királyság
Local time: 11:43
francia - angol
+ ...
So why doesn't the petition mention this? Dec 17, 2009

paula13 wrote:
not just anyone can translate user agreements, privacy statements, and other adhesion contracts on the site.
ad your user agreements on both sites in any given language… they were crowdsourced! If you run a little google search, you’ll find there has been quite a lot of public criticism to these sites thanks to errors in their legally binding, crowdsourced, contracts.
[/quote]

So this sounds like excellent amunition for getting translators' side of the story taken seriously. So my point is: the petition as it stands just sounds like a sob story with little weight; why isn't this kind of information highlighted in the petition to lend it the weight that it needs?


 

paula13  Identity Verified
Argentína
Local time: 07:43
Tag (2005 óta)
TÉMAINDÍTÓ
Great question... Dec 17, 2009

@Neil: that is a great question! When writing the petition I was reacting to the announcement Facebook made today about giving out translation "awards" to its contributors. I have been blogging about crowdsourcing for a while, the group has also been discussing it for quite some time, and I guess I assumed everyone knew what the issue was. I was also trying to keep it "short and sweet," I didn't want to write a very long petition that no one would want to read. That combined with the fact that it's my first ever petition was a recipe for a certain amount of clumsiness...

Regardless of my writing though, I do think crowdsourcing raises a lot of very serious ethical questions and sincerely hope that this petition helps to at least create a little awareness of those issues. In order to learn how to better manage my blog and group, I find myself visiting a lot sites and participating in online communities where I'm often the only translator speaking her mind about how certain technological "advancements" are not all they're cracked up to be. Today, I noticed a lot more translators participating in non-translation related forums, leaving comments in pertinent posts and articles, and speaking their minds about this issue. That, I think, was one of the main goals of this petition: to put the discussion on the table and get translators and interpreters to analyze how this affects all of us and to start thinking about what we can do about it.


 
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