Google does have human intervention into search results, in the sense that human will decide if particular sites ought to be banned, then those sites might be dropped. So when Google talks of "no human touching" of search results, in some sense, that's incorrect.
But Google is correct in the degree that they don't hand organize some results, make editorial picks to ensure that some sites come up at the top.
MSN used to do exactly this, handpick top sites to come up for things like Britney Spears, for example. And it was actually a strength they've lost as they've gone down the all algorithm result.
At Yahoo, there's evidence that for some popular queries, they are also hand-picking some results -- not just pushing buttons, but actually picking certain sites to get a boost. The version of my Going Beyond FTC Paid Inclusion Disclosure Guidelines
article Going Beyond FTC Paid Inclusion Disclosure Guidelines for SEW members back in June looked at this in detail.
In short, for some queries, some sites that came up had a special code that seemed to indicate they may be hardcoded to rank tops for that query. I've highlighted that below:
That's the redirect code for Cars.com, listed tops at Yahoo in a query on cars
. H=1 seems to indicate the site was hardcoded to show up in response to this query. In contrast, H=0 means no hardcoding appears to be involved.
As for this hiring, I'm with others that posted. This isn't some push to build human spam hunters. They've already got those. It looks like they want to increase the quality of results, and perhaps in particular for cases where those results may be in non-English languages. Spam elimination is part of that, but not the entire part.