MENLO PARK, CALIF. —
Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently declared that artificial intelligence fueled by powerful computers was more important to humanity than fire or electricity. And yet the search giant increasingly faces a variety of messy people problems as well.
The company has vowed to employ thousands of human checkers just to catch rogue YouTube posters, Russian bots and other purveyors of unsavory content. It’s also on a buying spree to find office space for its burgeoning workforce in pricey Silicon Valley.
For a company that built its success on using faceless algorithms to automate many human tasks, this focus on people presents something of a conundrum. Yet it’s also a necessary one as lawmakers ramp up the pressure on Google to deter foreign powers from abusing its platforms and its YouTube unit draws fire for offensive videos , particularly ones aimed at younger audiences.
In the latest quarter alone, Google parent Alphabet Inc. added 2,009 workers, for a total of 80,110. Over the last three years, it hired a net 2,245 people per quarter on average. That’s nearly 173 per week, or 25 people per day.
Some of the extra workers this year will come from its vow to have 10,000 workers across Google snooping out content policy violations that computers can't catch on their own, representing “significant growth” in personnel.
Alphabet on Thursday reported a fourth-quarter loss of $3.02 billion, after reporting a profit in the same period a year earlier.
The Mountain View, California-based company said it had a loss of $4.35 per share, caused by provisions for U.S. tax changes enacted last year. Earnings, adjusted for pretax expenses, came to $9.70 per share.
The results missed Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $10.12 per share.
The internet search leader posted revenue of $32.32 billion in the period. After subtracting Alphabet’s advertising commissions, revenue was $25.87 billion, exceeding Street forecasts. Twelve analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $25.65 billion.
Alphabet shares were down 4 percent at $1,119.22 in after-hours trading.