In the wake of a YouTube ad boycott that rocked the video platform earlier this year, when top marketers discovered that their ads were running against videos spouting hate-filled and extremist messaging, Wired has taken a deep dive into Google’s ads quality raters. Ads quality raters are freelance workers employed by the company to police the more than 400 hours of content that are uploaded to YouTube every minute, in order to flag inappropriate videos for demonetization. Google has ramped up its use of such surveillance in recent months in order to assure marketers that their ad dollars are in safe hands.
Given the insurmountable onslaught of content uploaded to YouTube every minute, the main purpose of involving human eyeballs is ultimately to help train Google’s A.I. by amassing data that it can “learn” from, according to Wired. But current and former ads quality raters say that, as Google has come to rely more and more on freelancers since trouble began in March, poor communication with the company, a lack of job security, and tough working conditions may be hindering their ability to assess content accurately.
“I’m worried if I take too long on too many videos in a row I’ll get fired,” one told Wired of pressing deadlines amid sky-high workloads. Several also said that, given a glut of increasingly shocking and violent content, they need to take breaks after watching several hours of these videos in a row.
Google’s ads quality rating program launched in 2004, according to Wired (Google purchased YouTube in 2006), and most contractors interviewed by the outlet were sourced by a hiring agency called ZeroChaos. Raters from ZeroChaos are hired on one-year contracts and must work at least 10 hours per week — but no more than 29 hours — for which they earn an hourly wage of $15. However, raters are are prohibited from working other jobs at the same time. Many also complained about being fired abruptly and without reason, and of having no communication with Google throughout their tenures.
“The people at the other end of this pipeline in Mountain View are like the wizard behind the curtain,” a former rater told Wired. “We would like very much to communicate with them, be real colleagues, but no.”
“Google strives to work with vendors that have a strong track record of good working conditions,” Chi Hea Cho, Google’s director of global communications and public affairs for ads and commerce, told Wired of ZeroChaos. “When issues come to our attention, we alert these vendors about their employees’ concerns and work with them to address any issues. We will look into this matter further.”