Last week Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced the social media platform will be hiring three thousand content moderators following a string of shocking incidents on the company’s live streaming service.
Facebook were the most successful of the generation of businesses promising algorithms and the user community – coupled with common sense – would act as gatekeepers.
That was handy for their business models, as the reduced administration costs would mean a much more scalable and profitable business.
Managing users’ sins
Along with Google, AirBnB and Uber, Facebook found that relying on users’ feedback and their own algorithms wasn’t enough to cover the myriad of sins humans commit or one in a million edge cases which occur a thousand times a day when you have a billion daily users.
Even the biggest of the web2.0 companies, Google, found their core business being shaken as the limits of algorithmic advertising were explored and advertisers didn’t like where their brands were appearing.
Most striking was AirBnB who quickly found ignoring aggrieved landlords didn’t work when you’re a billion dollar company. Uber, Facebook and Google have similarly found the “we’re just an agnostic distribution platform” doesn’t fly when you’re boasting millions of users.
Freelancer and the sugar daddies
Which brings us to Freelancer, the labour sites were always problematic in this space as services are rife with ripoffs, misunderstandings and inexperienced operators – on both the seller and buyer side.
Another problem though which seems to be appearing is the advertising of adult services on this site, such as this advert which appears to be either an advert for a sugar daddy or a webcam performer – the mangled English makes it hard to tell.
Bizarrely a Freelancer administrator has removed some of the advert’s content but has left the post itself up.
Clicking on the related links brings up a whole range of strange projects including someone who needs a photoshop expert to insert an individual into sex photographs.
Holding the service harmless
It’s hard to say whether these posts comply with Freelancer’s Terms and Conditions as they are the usual vaguely written screeds seeking to shift all responsibility away from the company which have become the norm with online services.
The reputational risk to Freelancer though is real, as company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange it has public investor base and, given its competitive market, it has to appear respectable to user – becoming a Tindr for adult performers – is probably not where organisation would like to be positioned.
Hitting the profit margin
Ultimately though Freelancer’s problem in this space is the same as most online platform services, the promise of negligible administrative costs is an illusion as managing a large user base brings up legal, regulatory, reputational and even political risks as Facebook is finding.
Like many of the early promises of the internet, the idea of a hands off platform where users do the work while owners sit back and pocket profits has gone. Where there’s people and edge cases, there’s risk and those profits may not be as great as they appear.