Its no longer a secret that many social media and internet tech giants are struggling to remain economically effective as things get tougher for the companies to retain their staffs. Many of these companies have not come out to openly talk about their struggles in public but what we know is that they are slowly but steadily losing the grip on their efforts to fight fake news and disinformation shared across the various social media platforms. Shockingly the first groups of employees to be laid off from duty at the social media giants are the teams that were hired to fight false and misleading information on the platforms, for example platforms like YouTube spent a good number of years expanding their efforts to tackle misinformation after the 2016 US elections through hiring policy experts and content moderators and invested in more technology to tackle these issues but as I write today this is No more!
In January 2023, YouTube quietly reduced its team of policy experts in charge of handling misinformation according to close sources. These employee cuts are part of the bigger plan of Google’s parent company Alphabet to reduce 12,000 employees from active duties. The recent employee cut offs from YouTube left only one person in charge of misinformation worldwide according to close sources to the happenings within the tech giant. YouTube is not alone in this, Twitter has also been criticized for laying off 70% of their staff recently after Elon Musk’s take over. These rampant layoffs have threatened the earlier safeguards that social media platforms had embraced to fight misinformation and fake news.
Faced with tough economic winds, political and legal pressures, the social media giants have indirectly showed that fighting false information online is no longer a high priority today, raising fears among experts who had earlier on gained hope that misinformation was getting defeated. This situation will further weaken the trust of people online. Some tech giants are still cosmetically promising to keep fighting fake news but we all know what this means especially in a period where these companies lack the human resources to support this fight.
The tech giants still maintain that their efforts to combat fake information are still on as earlier expressed during the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 US elections that saw former President Donald Trump banned from Social Media platforms. To further show that the companies are slowly but steadily losing the fake news and misinformation battle, on Thursday 9th February 2023, Meta restored President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts barely after two years of suspension for inciting violence ahead of storming the US Capitol. Meta did so even though they know that Donald Trump has since been posting extremist posts on his social platform “Truth Social”.
Mr. Musk has also in the recent past invited Donald Trump back to Twitter as one of the ways he wanted to show that the previous policies at Twitter are changing for the good of the platform. In this move Musk wanted to show that he is doing things differently from the previous Twitter owners, in fact Musk went ahead to cut off the team that oversaw safety issues at Twitter including misinformation. In January YouTube fired two of its Five misinformation experts including the teams Manager leaving behind one person for political misinformation and two for medical misinformation. The video platform also cut off two of its five policy lead experts who worked on hate speech and harassment issues.
In all this none of the tech giants are accepting that they are abandoning the fight against misinformation but their actions are way louder than words. We wait to see how this unfolds in the near future for the various social media giants who we now know do not have capacity to maintain their original human resources in this area of fighting misinformation and fake news.