China's Bilibili to hire more staff after employee death stokes overtime debate

The logo of online video site Bilibili Inc is seen at the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference, also known as ChinaJoy, in Shanghai, China, on July 30, 2021.
PHOTO: Reuters

China's Bilibili Inc said late on Tuesday (Feb 8) it would hire 1,000 new content moderators and more closely monitor the health of its workers, after the death of an employee prompted accusations that it was overworking its staff.

The Alibaba Group-backed company, one of China's largest video platforms, came under public scrutiny last week after a user on microblogging platform Weibo said that the employee died after working long hours during the Spring Festival holiday, an allegation that went viral on social media.

Local media reported Bilibili had in an internal letter on Monday said that his death was not caused by overtime.

On Tuesday, the company released a public statement in which it published details of the case, stating that the employee had worked eight hours a day during the holiday. But it added that the strong reactions and feedback from its users had prompted it to reflect on the situation.

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"The passing of an excellent employee like 'Twilight wooden heart' is not only a huge loss to the company but also sounded a warning to us," it said on its official Weibo account, using a nickname for the staffer. "We should take more proactive measures to guarantee the health of our content moderators in order to prevent similar tragedies from happening again."

Increasing the headcount of the company's content moderation team will decrease work-related pressure, it said, adding that it would also carry out more health check ups for its content safety teams.

Long work hours have in recent years been a hot topic for China's tech workers and others in its young, white-collar class, and several tech giants have come under pressure for their work culture, in particular over the "996" practice of asking staff to work 9am to 9pm six days a week.

Bilibili's Tuesday statement was among the top trending topics on Weibo on Wednesday, where it received a mixed reaction from users. Some asked for a further investigation.

"I really oppose the 996 and forced overtime cutthroat competitive working culture... so you must get to the bottom of this!" wrote SixsixSixLove.