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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Too big to care

15 October 2020

Bullying is a bad thing.

We're told by all of the social media giants that they have a zero-tolerance for bullying and that they give a high priority to dealing with any reported instances.

Sounds great doesn't it?

Except that this has become just another example of hypocrisy from entities that believe they are above the rules they make for others.

What am I talking about?

Well it seems that, whether intentional or not, almost all of these social media giants are guilty of bullying themselves, simply by dint of the fact that they have become faceless monoliths with no human face.

I mean, have you ever tried to actually contact a "real personTM" at YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter or wherever?

It is nigh on impossible.

As a result, instances where these companies are themselves bullying users become impossible to report, and thus such bullying is becoming endemic.

A great example of this appeared on the RadioNZ news feed this morning.

More farmers say Google Maps sending drivers over tracks

Hey, a simple problem you might think, just get ahold of Google and let them know that they have made a mistake that adversely impacts others. They'll sort it out and everyone will be happy... right?

No, wrong. Dead wrong!

From the RNZ report: "Whangarei farmer James Buckland said he had made many attempts to get his 2 kilometre driveway removed from the app with Google's Report a Problem tool"

But still no success.

It's almost certain that this tool drops queries into yet another AI engine that spits back some canned response such as "we sorry but you are shirt out of luck, since we decided that real people were just a burden on our corporation and made them all redundant".

You don't become one of the richest corporations on the face of the planet by wasting money on wages when computers can be used for a fraction the cost -- do you?

Also in the RNZ report another affected part says "two weeks of near-daily requests to Google through its Report A Problem tool also went ignored".

Seeing a trend here?

When RNZ contacted Google they were told "errors do happen", another pretty sure indicator that AI is in charge of this process and performing, as AI tends to do in such cases, awfully poorly.

As a full-time YouTube content creator I am totally familiar with Google's AI-shield, the strategy it uses to effectively deny all responsibility for its mistakes and to ensure that there is no need to waste money on payroll simply to make certain that service standards are maintained.

Just this week I was (yet again) a victim of Google's AI when a video about model aircraft that contained no swearing, nudity, violence or anything else that wasn't totally G-rated got an "age restriction" classification slapped on it. Google lied again and said that this was done "after review" when the video was flagged as inappropriate. A few days later the classification was removed... without comment, without notification and without any reasons being given.

AI might be great at some things but it is next to useless at replacing an effective team of humans who are needed to deal with real problems. Google knows this but prefers to say "to hell with people, advertisers are *our* customers and they are all that is important".

So, as I suggested at the start of this column, Google continues to bully people -- by ignoring their valid complaints and pleas for remedies.

So "Don't be evil" has been replaced by "Do as we say, not as we do".

This is the way of the modern world.

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