A former Google employee has claimed that the company’s team of moderators were pressured to approve ads and other content as ‘family safe’ even if it was in a foreign language they did not understand.
In wake of the national headlines detailing how advertisers were appearing next to content depicting violence, extremism and, in some cases, child abuse, Google vowed to bring in a team of 10,000 moderators who would manually root out content unsuited to advertising.
But according to a former Google staffer who worked at its Dublin headquarters, these moderators were repeatedly told by bosses to approve content as ‘family safe’ even if they didn’t understand the language it was in, or what it was about.
Speaking anonymously to The Times, the ex-employee explained she was part of a “trust and safety” team that would review material on AdWords and YouTube.
The worker, who was Italian, said she would approve content that was in Russian or Arabic.
“I do not know if Google knew that an Italian was reviewing Arabic ads,” she said. “We were told by our team lead that as we were experienced, we could do it. But I do not think that experience is enough because Arabic or Russian use a different alphabet.”
The Times said “several” other sources had supported the claims, including one Turkish employee who reviewed content in “tribal languages she did not even know existed.”
The operation – which was run by Accenture on behalf of Google – was likened to a “click farm” where an individual could process 3,500 adverts a day by simply clicking “clicking ‘F and enter’ all day.”
“[Some supervisors] were telling us to be fast and just click FS [Family Safe],” the source said.
“I remember we were calling ourselves the ‘click farm team’. You read about these click farms with poor people living on the other side of the world working long hours to ‘like’ content in order to earn cents. Well, we were doing the same.”
In response to the allegations, Google said it “demand[s] high standards of our contractor companies and never ask them to prioritise speed over careful review of ads.
“We continue working closely with Accenture to maintain high standards,” a spokesperson said.
Accenture added: “We collaborate closely with Google to maintain well-defined standards. Our multi-step review process includes comprehensive data analytics and senior moderators continuously monitor performance. Additionally, teams are supported with ongoing training and testing to help ensure they are delivering accurate and appropriate ad reviews.”