Analysis: Facebook's 3,000 editors...Is it still a tech platform?

Platform companies are not legally responsible for what they publish as long as they show they aren't directly editing their content — algorithms and users are supposed to do the work

Timothy Lee at Vox reports:

Facebook is hiring 3,000 people to stop users from broadcasting murder and rape

Facebook has faced a string of incidents where users have filmed shocking events - like rape and murder - and uploaded them to the site. Critics argued the company wasn't doing enough to address the problem.

Today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took action to address those complaints, announcing that the company was going to hire 3,000 people - on top of the 4,500 staff it already had - to help it respond more quickly to reports of abusive behavior in the platform.

Facebook, Google, Youtube, and Twitter define themselves as platform companies and not as media companies for a very important reason: as a technology platform they are not legally responsible for publishing content posted by users as long as there are mechanisms to flag and remove the content promptly.

Newspapers and all other traditional media companies are legally responsible for what they publish and this raises their costs of business substantially because they need editors, sub-editors, moderators and lawyers to review and defend their content.

Both the tech platforms and the media companies look very similar: they publish pages of content with advertising.

So why does one type of company have to comply with legal and cultural norms for content while the other doesn't? It's a distinction that is fast disappearing as the platform companies hire thousands of people to essentially act as editors in all but name.

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You'd think the problem would yield to a combination of algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) especially with all the hype we hear around AI. Facebook's AI can't handle the job and with 3,000 new hires - a massive 66% increase in the content monitoring group- it flags the failure of technology and the wisdom of the crowd as a solution.

So is Facebook no longer a platform company? It's costs of doing business just went up and so did the legal risks.