How Google Is Keeping People Out of Its Offices During the Coronavirus Pandemic

More YouTube content moderation will be handled by automated systems

The new Google building in the West Loop, Fulton Market area of downtown Chicago - Credit by Page Light Studios/iStock
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Google shared updates on the steps it is taking to reduce the need for people to come to its offices, as well as why some creators on YouTube may have their videos removed unjustly.

The tech giant said in a blog post, “During the unprecedented Covid-19 situation, many companies are closing their offices and directing their employees to work from home, schools are moving to online classes and people are quickly adopting social distancing measures. Our priority is to take care of people who work in our offices—including employees, vendors and temporary staff—and the communities they work in. So, we’ve been taking action to reduce the need for people to come into our offices, particularly in locations where local Covid-19 conditions merit increased precaution.”

Google added that a “limited proportion” of employees, temporary staff and vendors will continue to work in its offices to handle duties that can only be performed onsite, such as accessing sensitive content or user account data, for safety and security reasons.

As previously announced, the company is recommending that all employees who can work from home do so, and it is providing remote access and equipment including secure laptops to employees, temporary staff and vendors, where feasible.

Google is also prioritizing critical support work to reduce the need for people to come into its office, focusing on account recovery, security and certain advertising-related reviews, including coronavirus-related scams and inappropriate ad placements.

Content moderation on YouTube will be affected, as well, as Google said it will rely more on its automated systems to reduce the need for people to come to its offices.

YouTube wrote in a blog post, “We have teams at YouTube, as well as partner companies, that help us support and protect the YouTube community—from people who respond to user and creator questions, to reviewers who evaluate videos for possible policy violations. These teams and companies are staffed by thousands of people dedicated to helping users and creators. As the coronavirus response evolves, we are taking the steps needed to prioritize the well-being of our employees, our extended workforce and the communities where they live, including reducing in-office staffing in certain sites.”

The video site added that more reliance on machine learning may lead to increased video removals, including some content that does not violate its policies.

Creators were reminded that they can appeal those decisions but cautioned that those reviews may be delayed due to the efforts to cut down on people in its offices.

YouTube wrote, “The situation with coronavirus continues to change day by day, and we’ll continue to take the steps needed to protect our teams and the communities where they live. This may affect additional types of YouTube user and creator support and reviews, such as applications for the YouTube partner program or responses on social media. To stay up-to-date on any changes in our services—and our broader response to the coronavirus—continue to check the help center. We recognize this may be a disruption for users and creators, but we know this is the right thing to do for the people who work to keep YouTube safe and for the broader community. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we take these steps during this challenging time.”

Back to YouTube’s parent company, Google said it will change the timing of shifts and between shifts in some locations, as well as the number of people on a given shift, based on the work required.

Google also addressed concerns about support times, saying that all of its products will remain fully operational, but there may be some temporary limitations and delays in support. The company added, “Some users, advertisers, developers and publishers may experience delays in some support response times for non-critical services, which will now be supported primarily through our chat, email and self-service channels.”

Finally, the company committed to fully compensate members of its workforce who see their schedules reduced for the time they would have worked, and it “significantly enhanced” its hygiene and cleaning operations in its offices, in addition to increasing spacing between people and instituting temperature checks in some locations.

Google concluded, “We thank you for your support and understanding during this challenging period, and we think this is the right thing to do for the people who work here and the community at large.”


david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.
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