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The New Slaves?

I know how they feel. Out of nowhere, you suddenly get the opportunity to write for one of the biggest media outlets in the world. Instead of a trickle of people reading your articles, thousands do. Hundreds join in the talkbacks. Your pieces get linked far and wide: you are a big player in the blogosphere.

At any rate, that’s how it felt during my first few months blogging for the Guardian’s flagship ‘Comment is Free’ site. It was genuinely thrilling to watch the responses roll in, to do battle with adversaries, and to see my pieces at the top of the comment leader-board. In my case, I also got paid for it (albeit not vast sums); if not, then I might now be as disgruntled as Jonathan Tasini is.

Following the sale of the Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million, Tasini has launched a class action lawsuit on behalf of “a putative class of over 9,000 writers and other content providers to The Huffington Post”, requesting at least $105 million in damages. According to Tasini, “Ariella Huffington is pursuing the Wal-Martization of creative content and a Third World class of creative people. Actually, that is unfair to Wal-Mart because at least Wal-Mart pays its workers something for the value those workers create. In Arianna Huffington’s business model, economic gain is only reserved for her. Everyone else, apparently, is expected to work for free regardless of the value they create. Greed and selfishness is the order of the day.” It’s true that the Huffington Post doesn’t pay its bloggers. It’s also true that the work of the Huffington Post’s bloggers has played an important role in making the site what it is. Without the bloggers, AOL probably wouldn’t have bought it for such a tidy sum. Read more

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