Combating Disinformation Wanes at Social Media Giants 社群媒體巨頭打擊假消息力道減弱
文/Steven Lee Myers、Nico Grant
YouTube, like other social media platforms, spent years expanding its efforts to tackle misinformation after the 2016 election. It hired policy experts and content moderators and invested in more technology to limit the reach of false narratives. Not anymore.
Last month, the company, owned by Google, quietly reduced its small team of policy experts in charge of handling misinformation, according to three people with knowledge of the decision. The cuts, part of the reduction of 12,000 employees by Google's parent company, Alphabet, left only one person in charge of misinformation policy worldwide, one of the people said.
The cuts reflect a trend across the industry that threatens to undo many of the safeguards that social media platforms put in place in recent years to ban or tamp down on disinformation — like false claims about the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian war in Ukraine or the interity of elections around the world. Twitter, under its new owner, Elon Musk, has slashed its staff, while Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, has shifted its focus and resources to the immersive world of the metaverse.
Faced with economic headwinds and political and legal pressure, the social media giants have shown signs that fighting false information online is no longer as high a priority, raising fears among experts who track the issue that it will further erode trust online.
"I wouldn't say the war is over, but I think we've lost key battles," said Angelo Carusone, the president of the liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America. After years of efforts, he described a mounting sense of fatigue in the struggle. "I do think we, as a society, have lost the appetite to keep battling. And that means we will lose the war."
The companies maintain they remain diligent, but the efforts to combat false and misleading information online — which arguably peaked during the COVID pandemic and the 2020 presidential election — have waned at a time when the problem of misinformation remains as pernicious as ever with a proliferation of alternative sites competing for users.
Earthquakes Destroy. People Rebuild. 地震摧毀家園 災民重建決心堅定
She wanted to retrieve her medicine, and if memory serves all these years later, also a hairbrush and a photograph from her apartment.
It was in 2009, a couple of days after an earthquake flattened L'Aquila, the capital of Abruzzo, in central Italy. Authorities had closed the city to residents, but the woman and her sister had sneaked in. I found her leaning on a cane in a broken, empty plaza staring up at a midcentury building that the quake had somehow sheared horizontally so that it looked like a pot with its lid askew.
From afar, we measure catastrophes like the calamity in Turkey and Syria by totaling the numbers of dead and buildings destroyed. Reports describe a spectacularly wide disaster zone, recovery efforts that are too slow, leaving untold hundreds and possibly thousands of victims still buried, alive and dead, under the rubble — and hundreds of thousands more in the cold without homes, food, drinking water or medical supplies.
It is too much to process, the loss of lives and history. The tiny Jewish community in Antakya, in central Turkey, dates back 2,500 years. The head of the community and his wife both died in the quake. The city's synagogue is now gone.
The Habibi Neccar Mosque collapsed, too. The earthquake's destruction was ecumenical. The mosque dates back to 638. It was a church and a mosque, depending on who ruled the city. Over the centuries, authority passed from the caliphs to the Byzantines, who succumbed to Seljuks, who were ousted by the Crusaders, who ceded to Mamluks, who were replaced by Ottomans, and eventually Antakya was annexed by Turkey. The quake erased whole swathes of history.
The biblical city of Antioch, Antakya is also where the word "Christian" was supposedly first used. The Apostle Peter led the church there before establishing a church in Rome. Paul preached in Antioch. The quake collapsed the St. Paul Orthodox Church, as well.
L'Aquila, like Antakya, lies in a notorious earthquake zone. A quake in L'Aquila in 1349 killed 800 residents; another in 1703 killed more than 3,000, prompting Pope Clement XI to send priests and nuns freed of their celibacy to repopulate the city.
You may rightly ask about the logic of rebuilding time and again in these risky places. But logic is not the point.
Cities are only nominally bricks and mortar, after all. To residents they are repositories of a hairbrush and a photograph — collective threads of a social fabric that, over time, weave together a life, a family, a history, a neighborhood, a community.