Freelancer.com - Ethical Policies, Fairness and Integrity
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Regrettably, we now come to what I consider to be one of the company’s biggest weaknesses: its poor enactment and enforcement of policies designed to encourage ethical behavior on the part of clients and contractors. The situation has improved somewhat over the last two years, but it’s still not great. There’s a reason why many freelancers and employers consider Freelancer.com to be in some ways the “Wild Wild West” of freelancing marketplaces.
Freelancer.com deserves credit in one regard: it actually lays out, in clear terms, the ethical standards of behavior it expects from its users. Clicking on “Help” from the top menu bar displays a drop-down menu that contains an item called “Code of Conduct”. Selecting this brings up a guide to expected behavior in a number of areas.
Many of the entries on this page are basically boilerplate stuff that every website or service expects, and thus don’t really mean a heck of a lot. Okay, users are expected to follow the policies and terms of service, not spam, and to “act ethically and with integrity” and “respect the rights of all users”. Sounds nice, but it’s pretty much “Mom and apple pie”.
Digging through the long list, one can identify a few expectations that are a bit more specific. Members are not allowed to do any of the following:
Yet even here, some of these are still pretty vague, and there is no detail provided to really explain what they mean. As one obvious example, the guide does not specify what constitutes an “illegal project”; there is actually a list of prohibited project types, but it is found in the middle of a long frequently asked question list that most users will never find. Also, what does the site consider “obscene”—does this mean no adult content is allowed? It’s not clear.
The code of conduct also requires that users report rules violations or instances of fraud. As we’ll see, that’s a bit of a joke.
Notably absent from the code of conduct are any detailed rules designed to protect bidding integrity. There is nothing here specifically prohibiting the exchange of work for a good review, nor client and contractor both agreeing to do a dummy project to give each other good feedback. Similarly, there’s no provision against clients asking for free work samples. These are problems that are rampant in the online freelancing industry, and I’d presume that Freelancer.com doesn’t want them on its site, but it’s not spelled out.
I also have to ding Freelancer.com for not taking a stand against academic fraud. Where sites like Elance specifically prohibit hiring people to do homework or write theses for others, Freelancer.com doesn’t seem to care about this at all. In fact, it even has a category on the site called “Academic Writing”, which is filled with projects that unabashedly compromise academic integrity.
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