Ethical Norms and Issues in Crowdsourcing Practices: A Habermasian Analysis

Daniel Schlagwein, Dubravka Cecez-Kecmanovic, Benjamin Hanckel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)
547 Downloads (Pure)


Crowdsourcing practices have generated much discussion on their ethics and fairness, yet these topics have received little scholarly investigation. Some have criticized crowdsourcing for worker exploitation and for undermining workplace regulations. Others have lauded crowdsourcing for enabling workers' autonomy and allowing disadvantaged people to access previously unreachable job markets. In this paper, we examine the ethics in crowdsourcing practices by focusing on three questions: (a) What ethical issues exist in crowdsourcing practices? (b) are ethical norms emerging or are issues emerging that require ethical norms? and, more generally, (c) how can the ethics of crowdsourcing practices be established? We answer these questions by engaging with Jürgen Habermas' discourse ethics theory to interpret findings from a longitudinal field study (from 2013 to 2016) involving key crowdsourcing participants (workers, platform organizers, and requesters) of three crowdsourcing communities. Grounded in this empirical study, we identify ethical concerns and discuss the ones for which ethical norms have emerged as well as others which remain unresolved and problematic in crowdsourcing practices. Furthermore, we provide normative considerations of how ethical concerns can be identified, discussed, and resolved based on the principles of discourse ethics.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date19 Oct 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Oct 2018


  • Crowdsourcing
  • Openness
  • Open innovation
  • freelancing
  • Sharing economy
  • fairness
  • discourse ethics
  • Habermas
  • Critical Theory


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