YouTube has announced plans to seriously staff up in 2018, with the goal of having 10,000 people moderating its content and otherwise enforcing its policies. The move comes on the heels of news that the Google-owned video-streaming platform had run afoul of several high-profile advertisers over the content that their ads were associated with. Specifically, videos that appeared to exploit children, and featured disturbing and sexualized comments. The issue prompted several big brands to pull their ads from the service, such as Mars, Adidas, Hewlett-Packard, Deutsche Bank and alcohol giant Diageo, maker of Tanqueray and Captain Morgan.
Failing to Filter Out Inappropriate Content
YouTube has been dealing with a lot of negative publicity this year about how its videos are presented, categorized and policed. The popular site recently made headlines after numerous inappropriate clips were spotlighted on its YouTube Kids platform, and earlier in the year, advertisers were similarly upset that their ads ran next to videos featuring extremist and hateful political views.
These issues all boil down to the same problem, which is that YouTube deals with so much content that it’s impossible for human eyes to vet all the videos that will have ads linked to them. As a result, much of that work is left to computer algorithms that screen content to decide what’s appropriate. It’s believed to be how weird and off-putting videos featuring people dressed up as kid-friendly characters like Spider-Man and Elsa from Frozen engaging in inappropriate behaviour end up on a channel aimed at children.
Affecting YouTube’s Bottom Line
In the ever-shifting world of online advertising, when many major brands are still adjusting to the shift from spending their ad dollars on traditional media like TV and repurposing them for the web, YouTube’s moderation problems have proven to be enough to convince many advertisers to just quit the platform altogether.
A Business Insider article in November explored YouTube’s premium Google Preferred service, which purports to streamline highly-viewed and popular content channels for big-name advertisers, and sold itself partly as being, essentially, YouTube’s answer to prime-time network TV. But when the news first broke about the weird and creepy videos being included in some of these channels, several major brands were less than thrilled, and many pulled their advertising from YouTube altogether.
Creating New Jobs
YouTube’s answer to this string of unfortunate controversies is to vastly increase its moderation and enforcement staff, with a goal of having 10,000 people doing this work in 2018. According to a post on YouTube’s official blog, company CEO Susan Wojcicki says the company will build on the knowledge and technology it used to crack down on extremist content earlier this year and expand it to other kinds of questionable content – primarily that which affects or targets children.
“We will continue the significant growth of our teams into next year, with the goal of bringing the total number of people across Google working to address content that might violate our policies to over 10,000 in 2018,” she wrote.
“Human reviewers remain essential to both removing content and training machine learning systems because human judgment is critical to making contextualized decisions on content,” she continued. “Since June, our trust and safety teams have manually reviewed nearly 2 million videos for violent extremist content, helping train our machine-learning technology to identify similar videos in the future… In the last few weeks we’ve used machine learning to help human reviewers find and terminate hundreds of accounts and shut down hundreds of thousands of comments.”
So far there is little in the way of details about these new hires, such as where they’ll be located and exactly what their purview will be, but the plan to hire so many new monitors speaks to Google’s commitment to right its YouTube advertising ship. (And despite the recent advertising controversies, YouTube has announced plans to raise its ad rates in 2018.) With the recent announcement of a dedicated YouTube music-streaming service aimed at competing with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music, the tech giant is clearly continuing to bank on YouTube as a big part of its future. And as the importance of advertising revenue only increases, the site needs to address the concerns of both current and potential advertisers.
Justin Anderson | The Edge Blog