New York State Comptroller and Arjuna Capital File Shareholder Proposals Over Concerns That Weak Policies and Enforcement Threaten Long-Term Shareholder Value
Press Release – BOSTON & NEW YORK (January 11, 2018) – Arjuna Capital and the New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced today two groundbreaking shareholder resolutions at Facebook and Twitter that mark the first time that sexual harassment, hate speech and fake news have been included in a request for a detailed report examining the scope of platform abuses, and full disclosure of what the social media giants are doing to remedy the problem. The rapid growth of the #MeToo movement, the 2016 U.S. election interference, the racist targeting of ads and the unfortunate role that both Facebook and Twitter may have played in escalating sexual harassment, hate speech and fake news online were key factors in the introduction of these first-of-a-kind proxy resolutions.
Natasha Lamb, managing partner at Arjuna Capital and lead-filer of the proposals, said: “Sexual harassment online is a threat to women and a danger to long-term shareholder value. If users feel unsafe on the platform, they simply won’t use it. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, women are no longer putting up with what has been the status quo for far too long. Now is the time to take social media companies to task for failing to effectively govern content policy. In May 2017, Elle magazine published an exposé describing the sexual harassment perpetuated over Facebook’s online platform, and in October women went so far as to boycott Twitter. Both Facebook and Twitter need to demonstrate how they plan to prevent violations of their terms of service agreements and hold users accountable. To date, actions have been inadequate.”
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said: “Social media companies need to protect their customers, themselves and their investors from hate speech and harassment. Investors have a right to know what steps these companies are taking to enforce their terms of service and keep abusive content from fake news to sexual harassment off their platforms.”
Michael Connor, executive director of Open MIC, a non-profit organization that works with investors on media and technology issues, said: “If CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey are serious about addressing online sexual harassment, hate speech and fake news, they should stop playing whack-a-mole and develop a comprehensive approach to addressing the problems on their platforms. Investors and other stakeholders want to see evidence that companies like Facebook and Twitter are going to turn vague promises into concrete plans to protect the people who use their products.”
The full text of shareholder proposal submitted to Facebook is available online at: (arjuna-capital.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Content-Governance-Shareholder-Proposal_Facebook-2018_Arjuna-Capital.pdf). The full text of the Twitter measure is available at: (arjuna-capital.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Twitter-12-6-17_Content-Governance_Amended-Proposal_Arjuna-Capital.pdf).
The resolutions call for more transparency on actions taken to address fake news, election interference, sexual harassment, hate speech and, in the case of Facebook, violence.the dissemination of violent acts such murders, suicides and beatings, and weak content management rules that make no distinction between hate speech and legitimate political expression. A similar proposal at Twitter is further focused on interference in the 2016 United States presidential election, and the distribution of “fake news,” with a strong focus on managing and prohibiting hate speech.
In particular, hate speech is a growing problem. Twitter claims that it “prohibits the promotion of hate speech globally.” Yet, in September 2017, advertisers used Twitter Ads to target 26.3 million users who may respond to the term “wetback,” 18.6 million to “Nazi” and 14.5 million to “N**ger.” Following a women’s boycott in October 2017, the company made changes to Twitter’s policy regarding hateful content, including sexual harassment on the platform. However, CEO Jack Dorsey noted, “we’re still not doing enough.”
Other co-filers of the Facebook proposal include the Illinois State Treasurer, Michael W. Frerichs (FB); Baldwin Brothers, Inc., and Harrington Investments.
Arjuna Capital is an investment firm focusing on sustainable and impact investing. In recent years, 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 she 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 ends March 31, 2018.
Open MIC is a non-profit organization that works with investors to protect individual privacy rights and improve corporate governance standards for online privacy, equity, and diversity.
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