Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has disbanded the Responsible Innovation team responsible for policing ethical concerns about its products, as the company and other tech giants slash costs amid weak growth.
The team consisted of roughly two dozen engineers, ethicists, and others who collaborated with product teams across the company to review potential concerns about products and features.
Most of those employees will be reassigned to other teams within the company, though their jobs are not guaranteed, a Facebook spokesman told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
It comes as a number of tech companies, including Uber, Alphabet, Apple, and Twitter have scaled back hiring and dumped contractor positions – while others, like Netflix, have laid off full-time staff.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg warned of cuts, and now the company has disbanded the Responsible Innovation responsible for policing ethical concerns about its products
The Meta spokesman said the company would still emphasize safe and ethical product design but believes that those efforts were better divided up among product-specific teams.
Meta’s Responsible Innovation team had been led by Vice President Margaret Gould Stewart.
In June 2021, Stewart wrote in a company blog post that the team was created to ‘help product teams identify potential harms across a broad spectrum of societal issues and dilemmas.’
‘We create standards, tools, and guidance for responsible innovation practices across our apps and services,’ she added.
The shake-up comes as Meta and other Silicon Valley giants chase cost cuts as inflation and weakening ad sales hamper growth and cut into profits.
In late July, after Meta reported profits shrank 36 percent from a year ago, CEO Mark Zuckerberg warned investors on a conference call: ‘Many teams are going to shrink so we can shift energy to other areas.’
Meta’s Responsible Innovation team had been led by Vice President Margaret Gould Stewart, seen above at a conference in 2017
Zuckerberg has also recently said he will weed out underperforming employees with ‘aggressive performance reviews’ as the company braces for a deep economic turndown.
Last month, Meta laid off a group of 60 contractors who were reported to be selected at random by an algorithm.
The contractors were employed via Accenture in their Austin office, a company that has a deal worth nearly half a billion dollars a year to staff up the company with workers in content moderation and business integrity.
The layoffs were announced during a video conference call Tuesday and they were not immediately offered new jobs or transfers by Accenture, according to Business Insider.
And earlier in the summer, Meta reorganized its entire AI team, including folding the Responsible AI group into its Social Impact team.
The shake-up comes as Meta and other Silicon Valley giants chase costs cuts as inflation and weakening ad sales hamper growth and cut into profits
Meta is not the only tech giant to warn of cost cuts and hint at potential layoffs.
Earlier this week, Alphabet’s CEO hinted at possible job cuts because he wants the company to become ’20 percent more efficient’ after years of rapid hiring.
Sundar Pichai, 50, spoke at Code Conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, where he said he wants to make the tech giant, which owns Google, more efficient due to economic uncertainty caused by decades-high inflation and a slowdown in ad spending, according to CNBC.
In July, Alphabet said in a regulatory filing that it will slow the pace of hiring for the rest of the year due to decades-high inflation.
On Tuesday, Pichai also told the conference that the company has become ‘slower’ in productivity after hiring ballooned in the past five years, and that one way to make it more efficient was to merge competing products, like YouTube Music and Google Play Music.
In August, Apple laid off many of its contract-based recruiters after warning that it would slow hiring and rein in spending.
Sundar Pichai, 50, said at Code Conference (pictured) that he plans on making Google more efficient by limiting the number of people having to make decisions ahead of a slowdown in ad spending
Apple let go about 100 contractors responsible for vetting and hiring new employees, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.
In July, Apple reportedly warned staff of plans to slow hiring and spending growth next year in some divisions.
In May, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced plans to lay off 10 percent of its salaried staff, saying he had ‘a super bad feeling about the economy.’
Netflix, which has struggled with two consecutive quarters of net subscriber losses, cut its headcount by 150 in May and another 300 in June.
Google parent Alphabet also said last month it would slow the pace of hiring for the rest of the year.
Amazon is reportedly thinning the ranks of its hourly employees through attrition, and recently paused the construction of six new office buildings in Bellevue and Nashville.