Measuring the Monetary Value of Online Volunteer Work


  • Hanlin Li Northwestern University
  • Brent Hecht Northwestern University
  • Stevie Chancellor University of Minnesota Twin Cities



Organizational and group behavior mediated by social media; interpersonal communication mediated by social media, Human computer interaction; social media tools; navigation and visualization


Online volunteers are a crucial labor force that keeps many for-profit systems afloat (e.g. social media platforms and online review sites). Despite their substantial role in upholding highly valuable technological systems, online volunteers have no way of knowing the value of their work. This paper uses content moderation as a case study and measures its monetary value to make apparent volunteer labor’s value. Using a novel dataset of private logs generated by moderators, we use linear mixed-effect regression and estimate that Reddit moderators worked a minimum of 466 hours per day in 2020. These hours are worth 3.4 million USD based on the median hourly wage for comparable content moderation services in the U.S. We discuss how this information may inform pathways to alleviate the one-sided relationship between technology companies and online volunteers.




How to Cite

Li, H., Hecht, B., & Chancellor, S. (2022). Measuring the Monetary Value of Online Volunteer Work. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 16(1), 596-606.