Press Release: As Facebook, Google, Twitter gird for annual meetings, investors seek a reckoning from “Big Three” on online content rules

Sexual harassment, racism, hate speech, fake news, election interference are all key concerns; Arjuna Capital, New York State Comptroller, and IL State Treasurer note real risks for investors in absence of transparency on online content management

 

BOSTON & NEW YORK (Media Advisory) – Twitter, Facebook, and Alphabet, Inc. (Google) face serious challenges from investors at their upcoming annual meetings, which are spread across the next week on May 30th, May 31st and June 6th respectively. All three companies will need to respond to shareholder proposals led by Arjuna Capital that call for detailed reports on the scope of platform abuses, and full disclosure of practices to curb risks posed by recent content management controversies, including sexual harassment, racism, hate speech, fake news, and election interference.

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is a resolution co-lead filer at Twitter and co-filer at Facebook. Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs is also a co-filer at Facebook.  Harrington Investments and Baldwin Brothers Inc. are co-filers at Facebook and Google.  The resolutions have earned the backing of top proxy advisor Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS).

The risks of not properly managing online content by the “Big Three” has never been more obvious.  Industry leaders are being held increasingly accountable by lawmakers on key issues such as election interference, fake news, and hate speech.  In particular, the issue of sexual harassment has come to the fore with the rapid growth of the Time’s Up Movement and #MeToo campaigns.  All these issues can have a direct impact on companies’ finances, operations and reputation.

Natasha Lamb, managing partner at Arjuna Capital and lead-filer of the proposals, said: “As we head into the Twitter meeting tomorrow, American voters are still concerned whether Twitter can prevent future US election interference by foreign governments on its platform. Following Twitter’s testimony on Russian interference to the Senate Intelligence Committee, a Senator called Twitter’s presentation ‘inadequate at every level.’ Equally troubling, sexual harassment and hate speech permeate social media, and pose a growing threat to women, and a danger to Twitter’s long-term shareholder value. This holds true at Facebook and Google as well.”

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said: “Billions of social media users are at risk of being exposed to fake news, hate speech and sexual harassment if these companies cannot enforce their own user agreements,”  said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “Unless safeguards are in place, the companies are at risk of financial losses, lawsuits, and reputational damage.”

Michael Connor, executive director of Open MIC, said: “The theme of Facebook’s annual meeting should be pretty simple: accountability, accountability, accountability. No more excuses, no more lame apologies. Mark Zuckerberg and his board need to embrace that concept, not oppose it. It’s the only approach that will protect the well-being of billions of Facebook users all around the globe while sustaining long-term value for the company and its investors.”

Lamb continued: “Facebook and Twitter face an existential threat if they can’t provide an authentic and safe user experience—users will simply leave. It is high time investors have a transparent view into the scale of abuses on the platform and how the company is managing them over time.  Otherwise we are gambling investor value on apologies and promises to do better.”

In January, UK Prime Minister Theresa May pointed to Arjuna Capital and the New York State Common Retirement Fund for their investor engagement with Facebook and Twitter, noting “Investors can make a big difference here by ensuring trust and safety issues are being properly considered. And I urge them to do so.”  She further noted, “Investors can play a vital role by considering the social impact of the companies they are investing in.”

Last year Arjuna Capital filed shareholder proposals at Facebook and Google asking for greater transparency and reporting on fake news flows over their platforms.  Arjuna also has gender pay equity proposals going to a vote at Google and Facebook for the third time.

 

Twitter’s annual shareholder meeting will be hosted tomorrow, May 30, 2018.  For the first time, it will be an exclusively virtual meeting held online. The Arjuna and New York State shareholder proposal for Twitter on content management is available online here: https://arjuna-capital.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Twitter-12-6-17_Content-Governance_Amended-Proposal.pdf

Facebook’s annual general meeting is scheduled to be held May 31, 2018 in Menlo Park, California. The Arjuna shareholder proposal on content management is available online here: https://arjuna-capital.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Content-Governance-Shareholder-Proposal_Facebook-2018_Revised.pdf.

The Alphabet Inc. annual shareholder meeting is scheduled to be held June 6, 2018 at its headquarters in Mountain View, California. The Arjuna shareholder proposal on content management is available online here: https://arjuna-capital.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Google_Content-Governance-Proposal_Revised.pdf.


MEDIA CONTACT:  Patrick Mitchell, (703) 276-3266 or [email protected].

Arjuna Capital is an investment firm focusing on sustainable and impact investing. In recent years, Natasha Lamb and Arjuna Capital have been recognized for an ongoing campaign using shareholder resolutions to promote gender pay equity in the tech, banking, and retail sectors.  In December Lamb was named to the “Bloomberg 50” list of influencers who defined global business in 2017.  For more information, visit www.Arjuna-Capital.com.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund is the third largest public pension fund in the United States with estimated assets of $201.3 billion as of Sept. 30, 2017. The Fund holds and invests the assets of the New York State and Local Retirement System on behalf of more than one million state and local government employees and retirees and their beneficiaries. The Fund has consistently been ranked as one of the best managed and best funded plans in the nation. The Fund’s fiscal year ended March 31, 2018.

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