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Facebook and Twitter shareholders are demanding action on fake news and abuse

Facebook and Twitter shareholders are demanding action on fake news and abuse
[Photo: studioEAST/Getty Images]

Over the last year or so, the scourge of disinformation and harassment on popular social networks has been an escalating source of frustration for users, and perhaps the most frustrating part of all is the constant foot-dragging of the Silicon Valley firms tasked with reining in the problem. Sure, Facebook and Twitter now readily admit there’s a real problem—which is more than they did a few years ago—but despite the constant mea culpas and vows to do better, we always seem to end up right back where we started.

Now a group of Facebook and Twitter shareholders is hoping to force the companies to change their ways, and they’re doing it from inside the investor pool. Arjuna Capital, an activist investment firm with a history of trying to force tech companies to behave more ethically, said today it has filed shareholder proposals demanding that Facebook and Twitter figure out ways to get a handle on the fake news and rampant abuse that infect their platforms. The group says both companies have an obligation to demonstrate how they manage content and prevent violations of their terms of service. Facebook and Twitter, the group adds, always seem to be one step behind the problem, implementing solutions that are “reactive, not proactive.”

The two resolutions appear below:

  • RESOLVED: Shareholders request Facebook issue a report to shareholders, at reasonable cost, omitting proprietary or legally privileged information, reviewing the efficacy of its enforcement of its terms of service related to content policies and assessing the risks posed by content management controversies (including election interference, fake news, hate speech, sexual harassment, and violence) to the company’s finances, operations and reputation.
  • RESOLVED: Shareholders request Twitter issue a report to shareholders, at reasonable cost, omitting proprietary or legally privileged information, reviewing the efficacy of its enforcement of its terms of service related to content policies and assessing the risks posed by content management controversies (including election interference, fake news, hate speech and sexual harassment) to the company’s finances, operations and reputation.

Calls to curb online abuse are pretty common these days, but Arjuna Capital may have the clout to get results. In a profile of the firm last summer, our Cale Weissman wrote about its focus on the intersection between investing and social good. Read more about the proposals here and here.CZ