Three US senators are pressing Facebook-parent Meta, Google-parent Alphabet and Twitter about whether their layoffs may have hindered the companies’ ability to fight the spread of misinformation ahead of the 2024 elections.
In a letter to the companies dated Tuesday, the lawmakers warned that reported staff cuts to content moderation and other teams could make it harder for the companies to fulfill their commitments to election integrity.
“This is particularly troubling given the emerging use of artificial intelligence to mislead voters,” wrote Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Democratic Sen. Peter Welch and Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, according to a copy of the letter reviewed by CNN.
Since purchasing Twitter in October, Elon Musk has slashed headcount by more than 80%, in some cases eliminating entire teams.
Alphabet announced plans to cut roughly 12,000 workers across product areas and regions earlier this year. And Meta has previously said it would eliminate about 21,000 jobs over two rounds of layoffs, hitting across teams devoted to policy, user experience and well-being, among others.
“We remain focused on advancing our industry-leading integrity efforts and continue to invest in teams and technologies to protect our community – including our efforts to prepare for elections around the world,” Andy Stone, a spokesperson for Meta, said in a statement to CNN about the letter.
Alphabet and Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The pullback at those companies has coincided with a broader industry retrenchment in the face of economic headwinds. Peers such as Microsoft and Amazon have also trimmed their workforces, while others have announced hiring freezes.
But the social media companies are coming under greater scrutiny now in part due to their role facilitating the US electoral process.
Tuesday’s letter asked Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino how each company is preparing for the 2024 elections and for mis- and disinformation surrounding the campaigns.
To illustrate their concerns, the lawmakers pointed to recent changes at Alphabet-owned YouTube to allow the sharing of false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, along with what they described as content moderation “challenges” at Twitter since the layoffs.
The letter, which seeks responses by July 10, also asked whether the companies may hire more content moderation employees or contractors ahead of the election, and how the platforms may be specifically preparing for the rise of AI-generated deepfakes in politics.
Already, candidates such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appear to have used fake, AI-generated images to attack their opponents, raising questions about the risks that artificial intelligence could pose for democracy.