It seems in 2023’s wave of layoffs in the tech industry, Instagram’s parent company, Meta Platforms has reportedly made drastic cuts to the teams responsible for removing disinformation and addressing coordinated troll and harassment campaigns on its social media platforms, raising election integrity concerns, as reported by CNN.
This move, which raises serious societal and ethical concerns ahead of the 2024 elections, not only in the US, but also Taiwan, Ukraine, and India.
Last fall and spring, Meta Platforms, the Big Tech giant, laid off several members of the teams dedicated to addressing the disinformation campaign during the 2022 US midterms. Although no exact number has been released, the move by the Big Tech giant has sparked concern, raising questions about Meta’s integrity when it comes to presidential elections.
When asked, a Meta spokesperson refrained from disclosing to CNN the number of employees that were laid off. The employees, however, were a part of a global team responsible for addressing the company’s disinformation. Meta on the other hand, claims that ensuring the highest level of electoral integrity is of high priority, with its integrity efforts leading the tech industry.
It is worth mentioning that the layoffs were most directed towards teams primarily responsible for manually reviewing all election-related content that has the potential to violate the terms of service on Meta’s social media platforms.
“Protecting the US 2024 elections is one of our top priorities, and our integrity efforts continue to lead the industry,” a Meta spokesperson told CNN on Monday night.
The spokesperson for the giant refrained from answering CNN’s questions on the raised issue but instead emphasized Meta’s commitment to protecting users on its platforms through its latest $16 billion investment in teams that fight misinformation, as well as the technology.
Now, in all fairness, Meta still has a well-respected and established team of professionals handling said issues, but the main concern here is not the mere implications of the layoffs prior to the elections but rather the social media mogul’s regression from past lessons learned through the public admission that almost all of its platforms were a tool to incite violence, such as Maynamar in 2018.
To ensure the highest, and most importantly accurate and targeted results, the process of detecting sophisticated misinformation networks is a manual one. The process requires a deep understanding of public opinion as well as being informed about global events, necessitating heavy scrutiny from expert staff, regardless of the support from Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems and other automated systems.
The layoffs news comes days after Meta Platforms Inc. launched its Twitter-style microblogging application, Threads.
The occurrence of both events raises deeply rooted concerns on Meta’s commitment to combat misinformation on its platforms if we are to consider the timing of the launch in parallel to the reduction of personnel handling the spread of misinformation.