Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, on Jan. 30, 2023.
Marlena Sloss | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Google cut dozens of jobs in its news division this week, CNBC has learned, downsizing at a particularly sensitive time for online platforms and publishers.
An estimated 40 to 45 workers in Google News have lost their jobs, according to an Alphabet Workers Union spokesperson, who didn’t know the exact number.
A Google spokesperson confirmed the cuts but didn’t provide a number, and said there are still hundreds of people working on the news product.
“We’re deeply committed to a vibrant information ecosystem, and news is a part of that long-term investment,” the spokesperson said. “We’ve made some internal changes to streamline our organization. A small number of employees were impacted. We’re supporting everyone with a transition period, outplacement services and severance as they look for new opportunities at Google and beyond.”
Google News presents links to articles from thousands of publishers and magazines. It’s a popular tab for people who use Google search, allowing them to find top-ranked stories on a particular topic.
The layoffs come amid a war between Israel and Hamas that has claimed thousands of lives in both Israel and Gaza since Oct. 7, and 20 months after Russia invaded Ukraine. Both wars have spawned a surge in the spread of misinformation across the web, heightening the importance of Google and other sites that users count on to find up-to-date news.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., on Tuesday asked for information on how Google; X, formerly known as Twitter; Meta; and TikTok were trying to stop the spread of false and misleading content about the Israel-Hamas conflict on their platforms.
European Union industry chief Thierry Breton demanded that companies, including Google, take stricter steps to battle disinformation as the conflict escalates. Breton specifically addressed letters to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Neal Mohan, reminding them of the content moderation requirements under the EU’s Digital Services Act.
Google’s spokesperson said, “These internal changes have no impact on our misinformation and information quality work in News.”
Some tech companies said they’ve staffed up on content moderators as they scramble to battle misinformation.
Meanwhile, Canada and other countries are eyeing laws that would force tech platforms to compensate publishers for their work.
The cuts in Google News follow widespread layoffs across many parts of the company this year. In January, Google announced it was cutting 12,000 jobs, affecting roughly 6% of the full-time workforce. Last month, the company eliminated hundreds of positions from its recruiting organization.
A staff engineer at Google News wrote a post on LinkedIn on Tuesday regarding the layoffs.
“These are some of the best and brightest people I’ve ever worked with,” the person wrote. “We’re definitely worse off without them.”
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