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

YouTube recently announced that their content moderators were being sent home from the office and automated AI systems will handle the removal of inappropriate videos. As most content creators know too well, the AI doesn’t always correctly remove inappropriate videos. The moderators are the ones who correct the mistakes that the AI often makes from a lack of context. With the moderators gone, removed videos will remain offline until someone gets around to reviewing them.

The outcry from content creators was, “Why can’t the moderators work from home?”

Although YouTube released a video explaining this policy change, it didn’t fully address the work from home question. Having worked at Google before and after the Great Recession ten years ago, I can tell you why the moderators can’t work from home. It’s not a technical issue, it’s the business model.

I worked as a contractor for Google at the Mountain View headquarters on the IT help desk from 2007 to 2008, and a data center buildout in 2011. During my time there, I was completely unaware of YouTube that Google bought in 2006. I wouldn’t upload my first video to YouTube until March 2014, six years ago this month. While my work experience was from ten years ago and based on what I’ve read in the media since then, I don’t think Google’s business model has changed that much.

Google has two classes of workers: FTEs and TVCs.

  • FTE stand for Full-Time Employee, who are managers and engineers. They’re paid the big bucks, work on laptops, and can work from home. An FTE job is difficult to get because Google wants the best of the brightest from the top universities. FTEs represent the core of the Google workforce.
  • TVC stands for Temporary, Vendor and Contractor, who is everyone else from janitors to marketing to support techs. They’re paid the small bucks, work on desktop PCs, and must work on site. Getting a TVC job is easy to get since third-party companies will take just about anyone. TVCs are just line items in the corporate budget.

Since the moderators don’t have the ability to work from home, I think it’s safe to say that they’re TVCs. With the State of California and other parts of the world under lockdown, they will have to twiddle their thumbs at home for the duration.

Creators pushing the boundaries with their videos will have to suffer from the random whims of the AI. Or they could create advertiser friendly videos that don’t trigger the AI. The tradeoff would be exchanging fast growth for slow growth. There’s nothing wrong with growing a channel slowly over time.

Could YouTube provide laptops and grant remote access for the moderators to work from home? Technically, they can.

Will they change the business model to make that happen? Oh, hell no.

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