Facebook Inc.’s Board of Directors responded to pressure from shareholders and quietly adopted important and substantial changes to the charter of one of the board’s key committees, renaming the committee and broadening its mission to include oversight of issues that have placed the social media platform at the center of global controversy, including privacy, data use, community safety and cybersecurity.
Last night, Facebook, Inc. released the full results of last week’s shareholder votes, showing that outside investors are overwhelmingly outraged by the dual-class voting system, lack confidence in Facebook’s leadership overall, and seek stronger content management and governance as the company reels from scandal after scandal.
Shareholders, organized in part by Open MIC, have long been calling on Facebook to address critical issues, such as the platform’s role in enabling election interference, violations of privacy, “fake news” distribution, online hate speech and sexual harassment. Yet CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the company’s senior management have consistently brushed this all under the rug – until the recent Cambridge Analytica data scandal and other controversies finally forced these problems into the light and Zuckerberg himself into congressional testimony.
Top proxy advisor Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has recommended that Facebook investors vote in favor of two shareholder proposals, developed with support from Open MIC, aimed at improving the company’s performance on issues such as election interference, online harassment and risk management.
Facebook’s largest institutional investors – including well-known firms such as Vanguard, Fidelity and BlackRock – are being challenged to take action to address critical concerns regarding the social media platform’s handling of risk, privacy and transparency. The pressure comes from 78 organizations which today released a joint letter calling on the big shareholders to step out from the background and use their influence to demand better from one of the world’s most powerful companies. The letter is signed by leaders of diverse organizations, including prominent human and civil rights groups, major impact investment firms, faith-based investors and foundations. Investors signing the letter represent approximately $62 billion in assets under management.
As algorithms and Artificial Intelligence become ubiquitous in our modern world, their capacity to make life better becomes clearer - as do many critical risks. Open MIC's new report, “Formulas for Trouble: Why Smart Companies Must Tread Carefully With Algorithms,” highlights the need for businesses to beware of baked-in bias.
“If any other publicly-held company continually failed to improve its performance on such mission-critical issues, the CEO would have resigned or been fired by now. Zuckerberg must face consequences for his inaction, which is why Open MIC is calling on him to resign – or for Facebook’s board to fire him. At the very least, the company should take steps to separate the roles of CEO and Chairman – both of which Zuckerberg currently holds – thus providing some improved governance for the company. Facebook impacts the lives of hundreds of millions every day; it’s time for a CEO who will act quickly and transparently to address the platform’s problems and stop endangering us all.”
Citing significant risks associated with multiple recent data breaches, Verizon Communications investors have filed a shareholder proposal calling on the company’s board to link senior executive compensation to the effectiveness of its cyber security and data privacy practices.
Open MIC joins a coalition of over 50 civil society organizations – advocates for civil rights, civil liberties, government accountability, human rights, immigrants’ rights, and privacy – in urging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to immediately halt a new “Extreme Vetting Initiative” on the grounds that it will be inaccurate, biased, and a threat to constitutional and human rights.
Shareholders in Facebook, Google and Twitter with assets worth more than $25 billion have filed proposals with the companies in the last week demanding answers and accountability related to foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as threats posed by the growth of hate speech and disinformation on the three platforms.
A new letter from Apple Inc. seeks to block a request by a group of shareholders for the company to study its diversity metrics and to tie CEO compensation to racial and gender diversity achievements. The move comes as Apple and other tech companies have come under increasing scrutiny for failing to improve racial and gender diversity.
Open MIC has joined a coalition of fourteen civil rights, media justice, and tech policy and privacy organizations in signing a letter urging the Department of Justice to protect consumers by rejecting the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger. Specifically, the letter cites the major threats to innovation and pro-consumer competition posed by the merger.
A group of 20 investment advisors, investment management firms and foundations with broadly diversified stock portfolios today called upon the FCC to maintain current rules that support the principle of network neutrality on the Internet. The investors, representing approximately $190 billion in assets and Assets Under Management (AUM), argued in a filing with the FCC that a rulemaking proposed in April 2017 - which would gut net neutrality protections - is “fundamentally flawed.”
Open MIC's new report details how leading tech companies are grappling with an onslaught of disinformation and online hate speech, and makes recommendations on how they can improve their policies and practices.
A new report by the Kapor Center for Social Impact puts a $16 billion price tag on widespread systemic bias and mistreatment in the tech industry.
Following months of pressure by Open MIC and a coalition of tech, civil rights and policy groups, Microsoft has now quietly released new rules that will curb predatory lenders on its Bing search engine in the U.S. The policy changes are a win for all Bing users, and particularly for low income users who are the intended targets of misleading ads for predatory financial products and services.
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) today reports "strong evidence" that for the past decade, AT&T has systematically discriminated against poor residents in Cleveland in its deployment of home Internet and digital technologies. An analysis of FCC broadband data by digital inclusion groups NDIA and Connect Your Community suggests that AT&T has engaged in "digital redlining."
A new report released by Open MIC today finds that the lack of racial diversity in the tech industry undermines financial performance, demanding investors’ attention. The report titled, “Breaking the Mold: Investing in Racial Diversity in Tech,” highlights existing data showing that black, Latino, and Native Americans are unrepresented in the tech industry by 16-to-18 percentage points compared to their presence in the U.S. labor force overall. The report provides recommendations intended to address significant shortcomings with respect to workforce data transparency as well as increasing diversity at all levels of the industry.
Concerned that long-term shareholder wealth may be at risk if Facebook and Google do not do enough to “address fake news and hoaxes,” Arjuna Capital, in partnership with Baldwin Brothers, Inc., is asking the two tech giants (proposals to Google here and Facebook here) to evaluate the impact fabricated content is having on their platforms and businesses.
The AT&T proposal follows recent news reports that AT&T provided U.S. law enforcement agencies routine access to customer data through a sweeping program called Hemisphere. The proposal at Verizon comes on the heels of the company’s proposed acquisition of Yahoo. Subsequent to the company’s July announcement, Verizon learned of a data breach involving an estimated 500 million Yahoo accounts while Reuters reported that Yahoo had secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers' incoming emails for specific information flagged by U.S. intelligence officials.