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YouTube will rely more on AI moderation while human reviewers can’t come to the office

YouTube will rely more on AI moderation while human reviewers can’t come to the office


Mistakes will be made

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

YouTube will rely more on AI to moderate videos during the coronavirus pandemic, since many of its human reviewers are being sent home to limit the spread of the virus. This means videos may be taken down from the site purely because they’re flagged by AI as potentially violating a policy, whereas the videos might normally get routed to a human reviewer to confirm that they should be taken down.

Human moderators usually work from specific offices that are set up for the review process. Particularly for a large company like YouTube, allowing this work to be done outside of a tightly controlled corporate environment risks exposing sensitive user data — and making it easier for moderators to reveal what they see day to day. That means, if staffing is being reduced at offices, human moderation is necessarily going to have to slow down.

“We recognize this may be a disruption for users and creators.”

Because of the heavier reliance on AI, YouTube basically says we have to expect that some mistakes are going to be made. More videos may end up getting removed, “including some videos that may not violate policies,” the company writes in a blog post. Other content won’t be promoted or show up in search and recommendations until it’s reviewed by humans.

YouTube says it largely won’t issue strikes — which can lead to a ban — for content that gets taken down by AI (with the exception of videos it has a “high confidence” are against its policies). As always, creators can still appeal a video that was taken down, but YouTube warns this process will also be delayed because of the reduction in human moderation.

In a separate blog post, Google said that it’s handling staff reduction by changing the timing of shifts, limiting how many people are working at once, and increasing the amount of space between people. Support times for “non-critical services” will also be delayed across Google.

“We recognize this may be a disruption for users and creators, but know this is the right thing to do for the people who work to keep YouTube safe and for the broader community,” YouTube writes.

The shift to more AI moderation shouldn’t impact monetization, YouTube says. The company began allowing some creators to run ads on coronavirus-related videos last week, after initially having a flat demonetization policy.

Facebook was still requiring moderators to come into offices to work last week and as recently as this weekend, according to reports from The Intercept and The Irish Times.