Three sources, according to CNBC, have disclosed that Meta’s layoffs have affected engineers that were working on a new feature to combat fake news. The tool would let third-party fact-checkers add comments to the top of questionable articles on Facebook to verify their trustworthiness.
Meta, like many other companies, is now having to make cuts and focus on profitability with interest rates going up to tackle inflation. With higher interest rates, consumers have less disposable income and are less likely to spend as much on Meta’s services, meaning the company can’t justify the spending it has been used to.
Nevertheless, Meta has been facing a lot of criticism for what’s getting on to be nearly a decade for allowing fake news to proliferate on its platforms. It has already taken many steps to warn users of problematic content so it probably thinks these measures are enough.
The new fact-checking tool had been under development for six months before work was stopped earlier this year. It was said to be in the testing phase when it was shut down. Meta hasn’t commented on the feature specifically but said it will continue to invest in protecting users.
While it’s interesting to get a bit of insight into the internal goings-on at Meta, the severity of this revelation should be treated with a bit of caution. The company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said earlier in the year that some projects were essentially duplicates of what other teams were already working on.
It’s impossible to tell whether a similar fact-checking project is still under development at Meta, or whether it was deemed “lower priority” due to all the other misinformation measures Facebook already has in place.
It’s unclear how long it will take before companies get access to cheaper money again. It’ll be interesting to see in the time between then and now whether Meta manages to continue suppressing fake news.