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Humans Rescue Facebook

Richard Shapiro | May 10, 2017 22 views No Comments

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Humans to the rescue! Facebook just announced that the company would add 3,000 people (not bots) to the team that polices the site for inappropriate or offensive content, especially live videos the company is encouraging users to broadcast. In 2015, Facebook became the fastest company in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to reach a market cap of $250 billion. No one would argue that Facebook doesn’t have funds to purchase the best technology and software available. In a recent conference call with investors, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook said that, “AI would eventually allow reviewers to do a better job of reviewing content,” according to a New York Times article on May 4th.   But, Facebook does not want to risk tarnishing its reputation and business and understands that technology alone is not the answer.  Humans must be part of the equation.



Facebook has been under fire for not weeding out content that violates its rules, including sharing of nude photos without consent and illegal gun sales. Facebook is frustrated by the limitations of its automated algorithms in areas such as fake news and a series of horrible acts of killing that were not caught in time and user satisfaction levels were negatively effected.  Facebook wants to expand live video and overall usage, both because users like the content and it drives advertising revenue, but users need to feel they are participating in a safe social media environment.  According to Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst with eMarketer, “If people feel safe on Facebook, they will be more engaged and will use it more often. And if they use it more often, there will be more inventory for advertising, which is the primary revenue source.”

There is definitely a fine-line between free speech and censorship and apparently with today’s technology it’s difficult to distinguish.  Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union says that, “the decision to hire more moderators can only help the company make better judgments, especially about live events where fast decisions are critical.” She goes on to say, “that humans tend to have more nuance and context than an algorithm.”

Google has also been struggling with similar issues and recently Phillipp Schindler, Google’s Chief Business Officer, said, “the Internet was so vast that machine learning had to work hand-in-hand with human reviewers to improve vetting.”

There is an underlying theme. Businesses are chasing the latest shining technology star in order to insure their bottom line. All well and good but don’t miss the forest for the trees.  In my opinion, the mistake, and costly one, is to replace all human interaction with automation.  The ultimate customer interaction will always involve humans, with a human-to-human connection.  Coupling humans with the latest technology is a recipe for success.  Eliminating and replacing humans with a machine will spell disaster.

Schindler said that, “Google feels humans will not be needed over time because of the scale of the problem, but right now definitely using humans to teach machines is imperative to train the machine how to think like humans.”  In my world of customer service and the customer experience, humans can never be considered a stopgap measure.   I don’t agree with Google. Humans are the only thing that can give a company its heart and soul, and that is never just an interim solution.

What do you think?

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