YouTube and other platforms will increase their "reliance on automated systems" as COVID-19 upends employee schedules

March 17th

Google and other major tech companies warned that they will increasingly rely on automated post and video moderation as their employees and contractors respond to COVID-19.

Social platforms like YouTube and Facebook rely on both AI moderation and human judgment to determine what posts are allowed to stay on their apps. Often, posts are erroneously removed by an automated tool but are later reinstated by human reviewers.

As COVID-19 upends life across the globe, tech companies are warning that their burgeoning automated systems will take on a more central role.

In a blog post on March 16, Google warned:

Our goal on YouTube is to ensure we are removing content that violates our policies. We've invested significantly in automated systems for content review but they are not always as accurate or granular in their analysis of content as human reviewers. These systems are configured deliberately to identify content that may violate our policies. So on YouTube there may be an increase in content classified for removal during this time—including some content that does not violate our policies.

Facebook posted a similar message well:

We believe the investments we’ve made over the past three years have prepared us for this situation. With fewer people available for human review we’ll continue to prioritize imminent harm and increase our reliance on proactive detection in other areas to remove violating content. We don’t expect this to impact people using our platform in any noticeable way. That said, there may be some limitations to this approach and we may see some longer response times and make more mistakes as a result.

According to the New York Times, Twitter will also shift more responsibility to its AI system, but "would not ban any users based solely on automated enforcement because of accuracy concerns."

In related news, Google, Facebook and other tech services announced a joint effort to curb misinformation as the virus relief effort continues:

Elsewhere, Google warned Android developers the Play Store app review process may take up to a week given the interruptions of COVID-19. App reviews are a largely manual process Google carries out to test apps submitted to its Play Store.