WASHINGTON—Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) joined Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN),Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, and Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, this week to send a letter to the CEOs of Meta, Alphabet, and Twitter, requesting information related to recent layoffs among staff dedicated to addressing disinformation during the 2024 elections. The letter, addressed to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, and Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino, cited concerns that these layoffs will damage the companies’ ability to monitor and respond to election-related disinformation, including deceptive AI-generated content about elections and campaigns.
“According to public reports, your companies have significantly reduced the number of staff charged with addressing misinformation and disinformation pertaining to our elections. This month one report stated that Meta has only 20 percent of the number of staff who worked on election-related issues in 2020 – or 60 employees down from 300 – and that additional layoffs are planned. In January YouTube reported layoffs that left just one person in charge of handling misinformation policy globally, and earlier this month YouTube reversed its policy of taking down false claims about previous elections. Late last year Twitter cut about 15 percent of employees who work on content moderation, with additional layoffs announced earlier this year. The platform is reported to be facing challenges with moderating misinformation and harmful posts,” the senators wrote.
“Given these layoffs, we are deeply concerned about your companies’ ability to respond effectively to the increasing spread of election-related disinformation in the 2024 election cycle. This is particularly troubling given the emerging use of artificial intelligence to mislead voters. According to one report, even before recent layoffs your companies lacked sufficient policies and staff to counter disinformation during the 2022 elections. Just last month several current and former employees from Meta’s trust and safety teams warned that layoffs could weaken Meta’s response to viral election misinformation and foreign influence campaigns,” the senators continued.
In their letter, the Senators called for answers to the following questions:
- What are your company’s existing procedures to address the spread and amplification of election-related misinformation and disinformation? Please describe the effectiveness of these policies and procedures and the metrics used to measure their effectiveness.
- In advance of the 2024 elections, what additional policies and procedures does your company intend to implement to counter election-related misinformation and disinformation on your platform?
- How is your company specifically preparing for the possible proliferation of deceptive AI-generated content about elections and candidates on your platform?
- What steps has your company taken to improve the effectiveness of your automated content detection system in identifying misinformation in English, Spanish, and other languages?
- How many employees at your company, including contractors, are currently dedicated to addressing election-related misinformation and disinformation on its platforms, and what are their roles?
- How many employees at your company, including contractors, were dedicated to addressing election-related misinformation and disinformation on its platform for the 2016, 2018, 2020, and 2022 election cycles, and what were their roles?
- Do you intend to hire any additional employees, including contractors, to address election-related misinformation and disinformation in advance of the 2024 elections? If so, how many do you intend to hire and what is your timeline to bring those employees on board?
- How have the layoffs at your company affected the number of employees who develop and enforce any policies to counter election-related misinformation and disinformation?
- What other effects have these layoffs caused to your company’s efforts to address this type of content?
To read the full text of the letter, please click here.