YouTube sent their content moderators home from the office to keep them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, relying on machine learning to handle the demonetization or removal of inappropriate videos in their absence. As most content creators know too well, machine learning doesn’t always do a great job in flagging videos.
Onsite moderators must review flagged videos to determine if machine learning made a mistake. Every correction provides feedback for machine learning to refine its decision-making process when flagging future videos. Wrongly flagged videos will remain unmonetized or offline until an engineer gets around to reviewing them.
The outcry from creators was: “Why can’t the moderators work from home?!”
YouTube released a video explaining that “video reviewers” can’t work from home because their work is sensitive and/or some areas of the world don’t have the right technical infrastructure. An explanation that didn’t reveal the whole truth. Having worked at Google before and after the Great Recession, I can tell you why moderators can’t work from home.
Since the Palo Alto store closing announcement in September 2019, I’ve made eight videos about Fry’s Electronics Electronics being a zombie retailer. Empty parking lot, barren shelves, few customers, and the salesclerks unhelpful as always. I mentioned in some videos that I thought real estate developers would dictate future store closings. This week the San Jose Mercury News reported on a developer’s proposal to turn Fry’s Electronics’s San Jose store, warehouse, and corporate headquarters into a multi-building tech campus for 10,000 employees. Are real estate developers shutting down Fry’s Electronics?
“Wasn’t there a shooting at this place? Who else is here because of the shooting?”
I stared at the comment in disbelief. Surely, this was a joke. A shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival?
A Google search showed that an active shooter alert went live at the same time as my video. Looking at the real time analytics, both videos experienced a sharp spike in traffic. No surprise. My two videos with Chef Tom Colicchio in a cooking demo and announcing the winners of the Great Garlic Cook-Off were the newest videos for the Gilroy Garlic Festival.
I pinned this comment to both of my videos:
“There is an active shooter at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, reported at 5:30 PM Pacific today (7/28/2019). The two videos that I posted were from yesterday and have nothing to do with the shooting. Thoughts and prayers for the victims.”
Since the mainstream media was slow to report the shooting, I watched it unfold on Twitter while the views for my videos climbed steadily upward for the next three hours.
After news broke that pedophiles were using time codes in comments to tag “sexually suggested” content in family friendly videos on YouTube, I kept a close watch on my only video with young children in a musical performance at a public event that had previously attracted the wrong kind of audience six months earlier.
After I saw the initial traffic spike for the video while watching the real time analytics for my channel at 5:30PM on Friday, February 22, 2019, I disabled the comment section for that video as a precaution.
I went to the tech news website that my dedicated band of trolls called home and located the video URL in an anonymous comment for an article about YouTube’s latest child safety problem. Readers were asked to report me as a pedophile because a little boy had his “peewee” hanging out at a specified time code in the video.
The video shows a little boy with his hands over the front of his t-shirt and the waistband of his shorts while running around.
One comment called the anonymous comment a perfect example of the nonsense that the YouTube community is struggling with. Another comment told the troll to get psychiatric help.
After I sent an email to the CEO of the tech news website at 5:45PM, the entire thread got deleted 15 minutes later. The traffic spike ended with 14 new views for the video. Each view represents a person who wanted to see a little boy with his “peewee” handing out, either out of curiosity that such content exist or hopeful that such content was real.