Apparently, one of HuffPo's legions of free writers, a labor activist named Jonathan Tasini, is spearheading a class action against AOL and the Huffington Post for freely using their labor, and then profiting. Tasini complains that by so doing, Huffington functionally turned those writers into "modern day slaves".
Don't get me wrong: I'm a huge fan of the 13th amendment. Still, the lawsuit seems rather spectacularly unlikely to succeed unless Tasini can prove that Huffington physically forced him to writer for her site. Such proof seems unlikely to exist--though if it did, I expect he could make a pretty penny auctioning it off on Adult Friend Finder.
But even if the class action is a frivolous waste of time, I wonder if it doesn't expose some of the weaknesses of the AOL/HuffPo merger. If you build your business around (among other things) having thousands of left-wing writers producing free content, selling out to a large corporation may threaten the stream of free words. You sort of assume that these people hate income inequality in their personal lives as much as they do in the census data.
I don't know how much the Huffington Post really depends on those free writers to drive traffic--I'd suspect that most of their traffic comes from the more professional, or more famous, parts of the business. But at the very least, this really doesn't help.
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is a columnist at Bloomberg View
and a former senior editor at The Atlantic.
Her new book is The Up Side of Down