Why YouTube’s Content Moderators Can’t Work From Home

Photo by Rachit Tank on Unsplash

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.

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