Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Tech’s Shadow Workforce Sidelined, Leaving Social Media to the Machines

Facebook and YouTube warn content moderation and customer service will suffer as many contractors can’t work from home during the pandemic. 

Facebook Hosts Annual F8 Developer Conference In San Jose

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images 

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the sprawling networks of contract workers who keep social-media services running smoothly. Software is picking up the slack, but Facebook Inc. and YouTube are already warning there’ll be less content moderation and slower customer support.

While tech platforms believe artificial intelligence software will ultimately reduce the need for human oversight, many experts think the technology is not yet ready to take on nuanced decision-making required for tasks like content moderation. “Now it's going to be really obvious to everyone how poorly they actually work,” said Hannah Bloch-Wehba, a law professor at Drexel University who studies internet governance.