YouTube Closes Some Content Moderation Offices Due To Coronavirus, Warns Creators It’s Temporarily Relying On Automated Systems

By 03/16/2020
YouTube Closes Some Content Moderation Offices Due To Coronavirus, Warns Creators It’s Temporarily Relying On Automated Systems

In light of concerns about the spread of COVID-19, YouTube is reducing staffing in some of its content moderation offices, and will temporarily rely more on its machine learning-based mod systems.

“As the coronavirus response evolves, we are taking the steps needed to prioritze the well-being of our employees, our extended workforce, and the communities where they live,” the platform wrote in an official Creator Blog post.

Usually, YouTube’s automated systems are just the front lines of content removal. They detect potential copyright violations and/or violations of Community Guidelines, then forward flagged videos on to YouTube’s league of more than 10,000 human moderators for a definitive ruling. Now, a large portion of those human staffers won’t be in office to double-check automatic flags, so in many cases, YouTube will rely solely on the decisions of its artificial intelligence systems.

Because of this change, YouTube is preemptively warning creators that they may see an increased number of upload removals, “including some videos that may not violate policies.” It added that for now, it won’t issue strikes on videos its machine learning systems flag “except in cases where we have high confidence that it’s violative.”

Per usual, any creator who feels their content has been unfairly flagged can appeal, but YouTube cautions that for now, appeals will take longer, as they’ll be handled by the small portion of staff still in office. Creators can also expect delays for “additional types of YouTube user and creator support and reviews, such as applications for the YouTube partner program or responses on social media,” the platform adds.

YouTube also says creators may not see their videos being put in front of as many viewers as usual. “We’ll be more cautious about what content gets promoted, including livestreams,” the platform wrote. “In some cases, unreviewed content may not be available via search, on the homepage, or in recommendations.”

YouTube did not give an end date for this staffing change. In a separate company announcement, Google confirmed that staffers told to stay home will be compensated for the hours they normally would’ve worked. It has also established a fund to pay normal wages to any workers whose offices are still open, but who need to remain home if they’re exhibiting signs of COVID-19 or are in quarantine.

“For those coming into the office, we have significantly enhanced our hygiene and cleaning operations, are increasing spacing between people, and in some locations have instituted temperature checks,” the company wrote.