Facebook wants content reviewers back ASAP, slows return plan for most employees

On his personal Facebook account, Mark Zuckerberg offered an update on the company’s roadmap for bringing employees back to work in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the post, he acknowledged that while it might be possible for a small portion of “critical employees” unable to do their work remotely to return sooner, the majority of Facebook’s workforce will be required to continue working from home through “at least” the end of May. The selection of employees Facebook will prioritize for the swiftest return includes content reviewers who scan the platform for things like terrorism and self-harm as well as engineers who work with complex hardware. “…Overall, we don’t expect to have everyone back in our offices for some time,” Zuckerberg wrote.

On a call in the early days of the U.S. response to the virus, Zuckerberg noted that users could expect more false positives in platform moderation with Facebook’s army of at least 15,000 content reviewers sent home. Facebook said it was leaning more heavily on AI moderation to compensate for the lack of human oversight on the platform, a strategy that Twitter and YouTube turned to in the midst of the crisis as well.

Human moderators engage in some of  the social network’s most sensitive work, flagging terrorist activity, suicidal posts, child exploitation and other forms of content with potential legal and psychological consequences.

In his post, Zuckerberg noted that even as additional teams return to the office, employees from populations vulnerable to the virus, those without childcare or anyone with other circumstances that might make their situation difficult can work remotely through the summer months. Facebook will also extend its ban on business travel through this June as the company evaluates the situation.

Zuckerberg also announced that his company would cancel any in-person events of 50 or more people through June of 2021 and planned to make some of them virtual instead, including the annual VR developer event Oculus Connect.

“… We’re slowing our plans to return to the office in order to prioritize helping the rest of our community and local economy to get back up and running first,” Zuckerberg said.

“We also know that when society does eventually start re-opening, it will have to open slowly in staggered waves to make sure that the people who are returning to work can do so safely and that we minimize the possibility of future outbreaks.”

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