Culture

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

The two organizations announced Thursday that they filed shareholder resolutions to combat sexual harassment, fake news, and hate speech at the two social media platforms.

"If users feel unsafe on the platform, they simply won't use it", Ms. Lamb said in a statement. "In the wake of the #MeToo movement, women are no longer putting up with what has been the status quo for far too long", Natasha Lamb, managing partner at Arjuna Capital and lead-filer of the proposals, said in a statement, citing a May 2017 article in Elle magazine regarding sexual harassment perpetuated on Facebook as well a mass of women boycotting Twitter in October for the same reason.

"The rapid growth of the #MeToo movement, the 2016 USA 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", according to a statement from Arjuna and the pension system. Last year, lawmakers grilled Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet's Google for failing to stop Russian attempts to use the companies' sites to influence the US 2016 presidential elections.

In the last two years, Silicon Valley companies have come under fire as never before for widespread abuse of their services, from profiteers spreading false news stories in the run-up to the USA presidential election to a series of violent acts that were committed in real-time on Facebook's video-streaming service, Facebook Live. Now, after revelations of sexual harassment have rocked industries from entertainment to media to politics, shareholders are debating whether social media plays a role in propagating this kind of behavior.

Twitter came under intense scrutiny past year for temporarily disabling the account of actress and director Rose McGowan, who used the platform to name alleged offenders in the entertainment industry following sexual-assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Ms. McGowan, one of the women who alleged sexual misconduct by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, had used the platform to call out offenders. Twitter at the time said her account was temporarily locked for posting a private phone number.

The retirement fund owns roughly 6.7 million shares of Facebook, which as of December 31 had a market value of about $1.1 billion, Doherty said.

In theory, policies on both platforms should protect users 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". The firm has pressured tech companies including Alphabet Inc.'s Google, Apple Inc. and Microsoft, to disclose the percentage of female pay to male pay.

Twitter recently updated its policies on hate speech to clarify that groups that promote violence - either on or off the platform - would be kicked off but has never revealed the extent of hate speech.



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