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About Mechanical Turk

General Policies

Payments & Fees

Design, Publish, and Manage HITs

About Mechanical Turk

What is Amazon Mechanical Turk?

In 1769, Hungarian nobleman Wolfgang von Kempelen astonished Europe by building a mechanical chess-playing automaton that defeated nearly every opponent it faced. A life-sized wooden mannequin, adorned with a fur-trimmed robe and a turban, Kempelen’s “Turk” was seated behind a cabinet and toured Europe confounding such brilliant challengers as Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Bonaparte. To persuade skeptical audiences, Kempelen would slide open the cabinet’s doors to reveal the intricate set of gears, cogs and springs that powered his invention. He convinced them that he had built a machine that made decisions using artificial intelligence. What they did not know was the secret behind the Mechanical Turk: a chess master cleverly concealed inside.

Today, we build complex software applications based on the things computers do well, such as storing and retrieving large amounts of information or rapidly performing calculations. However, humans still significantly outperform the most powerful computers at completing such simple tasks as identifying objects in photographs – something children can do even before they learn to speak.

When we think of interfaces between human beings and computers, we usually assume that the human being is the one requesting that a task be completed, and the computer is completing the task and providing the results. What if this process was reversed and a computer program could ask a human being to perform a task and return the results? What if it could coordinate many human beings to perform a task?

Amazon Mechanical Turk provides a service for service requesters (hereafter “Requesters”) to integrate Artificial Artificial Intelligence directly into their applications by making requests of humans. Requesters can use the Amazon Mechanical Turk web user interface or web services API to submit tasks to the Amazon Mechanical Turk web site, approve completed tasks, and incorporate the answers into their applications. When using the web services API, the transaction looks very much like any remote procedure call – the application sends the request, and the service returns the results. In reality, a network of human Workers (hereafter “Workers”) fuels this Artificial Artificial Intelligence by coming to the web site, searching for and completing tasks, and receiving reward for their work.

What problem does Amazon Mechanical Turk solve?

  • For software developers, the Amazon Mechanical Turk web service solves the problem of building applications that until now have not worked well without human intelligence. Humans are much more effective at solving some types of problems, like finding specific objects in pictures, evaluating beauty, or translating text. The idea of the Amazon Mechanical Turk web service is to give developers a programmable interface to a network of humans to solve these kinds of problems and incorporate this human intelligence into their applications.
  • For businesses and entrepreneurs who want tasks completed, the Amazon Mechanical Turk service solves the problem of accessing a vast network of human intelligence with the efficiencies and cost-effectiveness of computers. Oftentimes people do not move forward with certain projects because the cost to establish a network of skilled Workers to do the work outweighs the value of completing it. By turning the fixed costs into variable costs that scale with their needs, the Amazon Mechanical Turk web service eliminates this barrier and allows projects to be completed that before were not economical.
  • For people who want to earn money in their spare time, the Amazon Mechanical Turk web site solves the problem of finding work you can do wherever and whenever you want using the skills you already possess.

How do Requesters ensure their tasks are completed in a high-quality manner?

Requesters have several options for ensuring their HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks) are completed in a high-quality manner.

  • Requesters have the opportunity to approve completed HITs before having to pay for them. There are many ways Requesters can approve HITs, ranging from auto-approving them sight unseen, to auto-approving them when they receive two answers to the same HIT that match, to manually approving some or all completed HITs.
  • Requesters can specify that people who work on their tasks must first complete a qualification test, thus giving Requesters the opportunity to vet the skill level of the people working on their HITs beforehand. Over time people who do work on the Amazon Mechanical Turk web site will have statistics associated with them based on how accurately they have completed other HITs. These statistics, such as the percentage of HITs they’ve submitted that have been approved, allow Requesters to specify further that only Workers with certain qualifications can work on their HITs.

Who completes the tasks on Amazon Mechanical Turk and how do they complete them?

  • Virtually anyone can complete tasks on the Amazon Mechanical Turk web site using the skills they already have and according to their own schedule. The only requirement to complete tasks and collect payment from Requesters is a computing device connected to the Internet and to be at least 18-years-old.
  • Earning money through the Amazon Mechanical Turk web site is as easy as searching for HITs on the site, accepting those HITs, completing them, and collecting the reward once the HIT is approved by the Requester.

What kind of work can be done using Amazon Mechanical Turk?

  • Anyone can submit virtually any task that can be completed using a computing device connected to the Internet.
  • Amazon came up with the idea for Amazon Mechanical Turk to help solve specific internal data processing problems that required human judgment and intelligence. We quickly realized that we had invented something unique and incredibly useful, and decided to expose it as an external web service so that Requesters can create their own innovative applications that use human intelligence as a core component.

How do Workers collect money for the tasks they complete?

When a Requester approves a task, Amazon Mechanical Turk automatically deposits earnings into the Mechanical Turk account of the Worker who completed the task. Workers in the United States can have this money transferred to their Amazon Payments account. Workers outside of the United States can request to have the money transferred to their gift card balance.

Can any business use Amazon Mechanical Turk or do they need to understand how to use web services and APIs?

Businesses can create and publish HITs on Mechanical Turk using the web user interface, the web service API, or the command line tools. For more information on these tools and to see which one best fits your need, visit the Choose the Right Tool page to learn more.

Can International Requesters use Amazon Mechanical Turk to get tasks completed?

Requesters must provide a U.S. billing address in order to submit a request for tasks to be completed through the Amazon Mechanical Turk web site.

General Policies

Can I create a HIT that may contain explicit or offensive content?

If your HIT could contain explicit or offensive content, for instance, nudity, make sure to do the following:

  1. Include the following phrase in your HIT title: "(WARNING: This HIT may contain adult content. Worker discretion is advised.)"
  2. Require that Workers have the Adult Content Qualification in order to work on your HIT. This qualification requires Workers to acknowledge that they are over 18 and that they agree to work on potentially offensive content. You can set this requirement during the Design step on the Requester website or via the developer tools.
  3. Require that Workers have the Adult Content Qualification in order to preview the HIT by checking the "Required for Preview" box in the Design step on the Requester website or via the developer tools.

Are there restrictions or prohibited uses of Amazon Mechanical Turk?

You may not use Amazon Mechanical Turk for illegal or objectionable activities. Here are some examples of prohibited activities:

  • Collecting personal identifiable information
  • Fraud
  • Disrupting or degrading the operation of any website or Internet service
  • Direct marketing
  • Spamming
  • Unsolicited contacting of users
  • Impermissible advertising or marketing activities
  • Infringing or misappropriating the rights of any third party
  • Posting illegal or objectionable content
  • Disrupting operation of the Mechanical Turk website
  • Creating a security risk for Mechanical Turk, any Mechanical Turk user, or any third party

What are some specific examples of types of HITs that violate Amazon Mechanical Turk policies?

  • HITs requiring disclosure of the Worker's identity or e-mail address, either directly or indirectly
  • HITs requiring registration at another website or group
  • HITs that directly or indirectly promote a site, service, or opinion
  • HITs that violate the terms and conditions of an activity or website (for instance asking Workers to vote for something)
  • HITs that have explicit or offensive content, for instance, nudity, but do not have the Adult Content Qualification
  • HITs asking Workers to solicit third parties
  • HITs that generate "referred" site visits or click through traffic
  • HITs that ask Workers to take action to manipulate a website's behavior or results
  • HITs that violate intellectual property rights of any party
  • HITs that require Workers to download software that contains any malware, spyware, viruses, or other harmful code

Who should I contact about "notice and takedown" of possibly infringing material?

Amazon respects the intellectual property of others. If you believe that your work has been copied in a way that constitutes copyright infringement, please follow our Notice and Procedure for Making Claims of Copyright Infringement.

Payments & Fees

How do I purchase prepaid HITs on Mechanical Turk?

Follow these steps to purchase prepaid HITs:

  1. From your Mechanical Turk account, go to My Account -> Purchase Prepaid HITs.
  2. Enter in the amount you would like to purchase.
  3. Select the credit or debit card on file or enter in new credit or debit card information.
  4. Confirm your purchase.

If you plan to make a single purchase of over $2,000, or multiple purchases totaling more than $10,000 in a calendar day, you will need to establish a verified Amazon Payments account. To learn more about how to create a verified account, see the requirements for purchasing prepaid HITs page here.

How are the fees calculated?

You can review Amazon Mechanical Turk pricing here.

What rounding rules are applied when calculating fees?

After the fee is calculated, we round half up amounts greater than $0.01 – we round down if the fractional amount is less than half a penny, and round up otherwise. For example, $0.104 is rounded to $0.10, $0.105 is rounded to $0.11, and $0.108 is rounded to $0.11.

How are Workers paid?

Workers will be paid and Amazon Mechanical Turk fees will be charged when you approve submitted work. If you reject the work, the Worker is not paid and you are not charged the Amazon Mechanical Turk fees. Mechanical Turk Prepaid HITs are subject to Terms and Conditions. You can review Amazon Mechanical Turk pricing here.

Can I use any Amazon Payments account to purchase prepaid HITs?

No. You can purchase prepaid HITs using your credit or debit card on the Purchase Prepaid HITs page.

How do I receive a refund for prepaid HITs?

If you would like a refund of your prepaid HIT purchase, please contact customer support.

Can I purchase prepaid HITs through my AWS account?

We don't support purchases of prepaid HITs through your AWS billing account. You can purchase prepaid HITs within Mechanical Turk at the My Account page.

Who are Mechanical Turk Masters?

Mechanical Turk has built technology which analyzes Worker performance, identifies high performing Workers, and monitors their performance over time. Workers who have demonstrated excellence across a wide range of HITs are awarded the Masters Qualification. Masters must continue to pass our statistical monitoring to maintain the Mechanical Turk Masters Qualification.

Do you support Requesters from outside of the US?

Mechanical Turk requires that Requesters provide a U.S. billing address and a credit card, debit card, Amazon Payments account or U.S. bank account in order to publish HITs.

Do you collect tax reporting information from non-US based Workers?

Yes, all non-US based Workers are required to provide their name, address, and certify the following information before doing any work on Mechanical Turk:

  1. The worker is not a US citizen.
  2. The worker performs all work on HITs from a location outside of the United States.
  3. The worker does not own or lease computer servers in the United States used to do HITs.
  4. The worker will receive all payments (other than gift certificates) to a foreign address or payment instrument.
  5. The worker understands that Amazon Mechanical Turk will provide the tax information to Requesters when required to meet their U.S. Tax reporting obligations and consent to such disclosure.
  6. The worker certifies, under penalty of perjury, that the information provided is to the best of their knowledge and believes it is true, correct, and complete.

What are funds held for liability?

Funds held for liability is the sum of your assignment liability and fee liability.

Funds held for assignment liability is an estimated amount representing how much you would have to pay Workers if Workers submitted results for every assignment you are requesting, and you approved all of the results. We hold these funds because we need to ensure that Workers are paid promptly for their work on Mechanical Turk. Your assignment liability will increase as you create new HITs and will decrease as you approve or reject assignments. If you have no outstanding assignments, you will have zero assignment liability.

Funds held for fee liability is an estimated amount representing how much you would have to pay Amazon Mechanical Turk if Workers submitted results for every assignment you are requesting, and you approved all of the results. Your fee liability will increase as you create new HITs and will decrease as you approve or reject assignments. If you have no outstanding assignments, you will have zero fee liability.

Design, Publish, and Manage HITs

How do I create a HIT?

The help center contains helpful guides, videos, webinars, case studies and other tools to help you get started and manage your HITs. The Mechanical Turk Requester website is ideal for business professionals who want access to the Mechanical Turk Worker community. The Requester UI Guide will explain how to design, publish, and manage your HITs on the Requester website.

What happens when I reject work?

When you reject an assignment, the Worker who performed the assignment does not get paid, and you are not charged the standard Mechanical Turk fee for the HIT. The rejection affects your Requester statistics and the statistics of the Worker who submitted the results.

How do I get accurate results from Workers?

Consult the Best Practices Guide in the Resource Center. Our Best Practices Guide helps you plan, design, and test your Amazon Mechanical Turk HITs.

How long does Amazon Mechanical Turk keep my HITs?

Amazon will delete HITs, HIT Types, and Qualifications if they are not used for 120 days. If you require access to HIT data for longer than 120 days, we recommend you download the HIT results and store them locally.

Are there restrictions or prohibited uses of Amazon Mechanical Turk?

You may not use Amazon Mechanical Turk for illegal or objectionable activities. Please refer to the policy page for examples. For example, Requesters are not allowed to collect personally identifiable information from Workers.

How do I prevent Workers who have worked on my HIT (e.g. Surveys) once from taking part in subsequent HITs?

This can be achieved by using qualifications. Requesters can create a Qualification Type or use an existing Qualification Type to assign it to the Workers who have completed the HIT (e.g. survey) once. When creating the next HIT, Requesters can specify that only Workers who have not been granted the Qualification Type can work on the HIT. This can be done through the UI and the API.