Meta Platforms Inc. has disbanded its Responsible Innovation team, which was once a prominent piece of its effort to address concerns about the potential downsides of its products.
The team had included roughly two dozen engineers, ethicists and others who collaborated with internal product teams and outside privacy specialists, academics and users to identify and address potential concerns about new products and alterations to
Meta spokesman Eric Porterfield said the company remains committed to the team’s goals, and that most of its former members would continue similar work elsewhere at Meta, though they aren’t guaranteed new jobs. He said the company believed its safe and ethical product design resources were better spent on more issue-specific teams.
The team’s demise comes at a tumultuous time for Meta, as it contends with a precipitous slowdown in its core digital-advertising business that has prompted it to slow hiring in recent months. Chief Executive
has been trying to overhaul a broad swath of the social-media giant’s businesses, emphasizing initiatives that can help drive near-term growth or that fit with his longer-term emphasis on the metaverse, a loosely defined, more immersive version of the internet that he says is central to the company’s future.
As envisioned, according to past statements by the company and the team’s leaders, the Responsible Innovation team was to have had a formative role in future company products, beginning with encouraging newly hired engineers in how to think about potential downsides to what they build and then consulting on the design of specific products.
Last year, Margaret Gould Stewart, the company vice president overseeing the team, wrote a post for a company blog titled “Why I’m optimistic about Facebook’s Responsible Innovation efforts.”
“We design our products with a privacy-first approach and partner with experts in civil rights, accessibility, human rights, and safety, as well as academic institutions, governments, and people who use our products, like you,” Ms. Stewart wrote in the June 2021 post.
Zvika Krieger, who led the team before leaving Meta earlier this year, said in an interview that its efforts were broader than other safety and integrity-related work at the company. He said its work was given prominence in the engineering operation by former Chief Technology Officer
who announced last year that he was stepping down.
Mr. Krieger, who said the team consulted with more than 100 product teams, cited as an example of its work its involvement with the Facebook dating team’s decision to avoid including a filter that would let users target or exclude potential love interests of a particular race. Other dating apps later followed suit, he said.
Write to Jeff Horwitz at [email protected]
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Appeared in the September 9, 2022, print edition as ‘Meta Cuts Advisory Team for Products.’