The trouble with Fiverr, or ethical questions and the marketplace

Many Goodreads users are familiar with Fiverr. For the uninitiated, it is a website where you may purchase reviews of books or products, or blog follows, twitter likes, etc.  This probably doesn’t need to be said, but not only are purchased reviews of books widely held to be unethical, they are also a violation of FTC rules, at least unless disclosed.

Because of this, it had never occurred to me to go on Fiverr, since I had no interest in buying or selling reviews. Then I made a surprising discovery.  There are perfectly respectable services on offer on the website.  Obviously, buyers should exercise caution. Possibly a lot of caution, since I found this out when someone on another site ordered a cover graphic, and received a handsome one with a photograph that was an obvious copyright violation.

However, a quick look revealed a marketplace for services I might offer, such as editing, and ones I might purchase, such as Smashwords formatting, which I’m rather notoriously challenged with.

Now, the same menus that offer these legitimate and potentially useful services offer the same ones that have given this particular website a somewhat unsavory reputation.

That leads to an  interesting ethical question. Is it defensible to use the marketplace for legitimate services? I’m a believer in avoiding the appearance, as well as the substance, of impropriety. I’m also not particularly excited by the prospect of supporting a business that cheerfully flouts generally accepted ethical standards.


Many people purchase legitimate goods and services off of Craigslist all the time. It’s a huge marketplace, and it’s become a household name. Scams aside, there are also frankly illegal services available off of Craigslist.

Unlike purchasing reviews, which is one of those things that many people may not realize is illegal, there are very, very few folks out there who don’t know that purchasing sexual favors and services is. Some of them may believe that transactive sex is not immoral if between consenting adults, but some percentage of the women (and probably at least a few of the men) offering this type of service on Craigslist are coerced or trafficked, and it would be almost impossible to sort them out from the truly voluntary.

I think it very unlikely that any of the people offering reviews for a price on Fiverr are under duress, even if most believe it unethical.

So is there a moral difference between using Craigslist and using Fiverr? Craigslist offers more separation between illegal services and legitimate ones. Does that change the equation at all?

Should both marketplaces be avoided as tainted by the illegal services on offer?

Is is morally defensible to use either marketplace for legitimate services?

Just throwing these ideas out there. I haven’t made my mind up either way, but I haven’t purchased Smashwords formatting off of Fiverr either.