‘We’ve Lost Key Battles’: Big Tech Companies Quietly Reduce Censorship Teams Following Legal Battles, Layoffs

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  • Big Tech companies have quietly cut their censorship teams as they face legal pressure and layoffs across the board, according to The New York Times.
  • YouTube reportedly cut two of five “hate speech and harassments” policy experts and reduced its enforcement and response team, while Twitter CEO Elon Musk fired half of the company’s 8,000 employees.
  • Despite scrutiny and setbacks, some Big Tech executives remain set on enforcing misinformation policies.

Big Tech’s censorship teams appear to be losing steam amidst legal scrutiny, layoffs, and waning popularity, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

YouTube, for example, cut two of five “hate speech and harassments” policy experts, removed two of five misinformation experts, and reduced its policy enforcement and response teams, according to the NYT. This comes after Google’s parent company, Alphabet, cut around 12,0000 employees in January.

Twitter’s reductions have been the most pronounced since Elon Musk’s takeover and promise to restore free speech, reinstating most previously banned accounts.
In November, Twitter CEO Elon Musk laid off half of the company’s 8,000 employees after firing the executives who made some of the most controversial content moderation decisions, such as former Head of Legal Policy, Trust, and Safety Vijaya Gadde, who was a large part of the decision to remove former President Donald Trump from the platform.

“I wouldn’t say the war is over, but I think we’ve lost key battles,” Angelo Carusone, president of the left-leaning group dedicated to promoting censorship and ad boycotts of right-leaning media “Media Matters for America,” told the NYT. “I do think we, as a society, have lost the appetite to keep battling. And that means we will lose the war.” (RELATED: Ted Cruz Announces Sweeping Oversight Investigation Of Big Tech Firms’ Censorship Practices)

Tech companies are now facing calls for accountability for the extensive influence they exercise over the content moderation process. Yesterday, Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz announced an investigation into company recommendation algorithms that “restrict the visibility of high-profile conservative accounts,” he wrote in a letter to Meta, Google, Twitter and TikTok.
“Taken as a whole, these systems have an outsized impact—whether positive or negative—on the reach of content and accounts and, by extension, speech,” Cruz wrote.
Yet company mindsets on misinformation policies have largely not changed. During a House Oversight Committee hearing last week, ex-Twitter executives were pressed on their role in suppressing the Hunter Biden laptop story. Former head of Twitter’s Office of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth claimed during the hearing that Twitter’s censorship resulted in more speech.
“Again and again, we saw the speech of a small number of abusive users drive away countless others,” Roth said. “Unrestricted free speech, paradoxically, results in less speech, not more. It was our job in Trust and Safety to try to strike an appropriate balance.”

Following Facebook and Instagram’s decision to reinstate Trump late January, Meta President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg similarly said it is “both necessary and possible to draw a line between content that is harmful and should be removed, and content that, however distasteful or inaccurate, is part of the rough and tumble of life in a free society,” according to a statement.
“The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box,” Clegg said. “But that does not mean that there are no limits to what people can say on our platform. When there is a clear risk of real world harm — a deliberately high bar for Meta to intervene in public discourse — we act.”
Google and YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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