Meta shareholders are pushing the Facebook and Instagram parent company to take a harder line against “harmful content” targeted at teens on its site, as well as coronavirus-related misinformation.
A group of shareholders slammed Meta in a letter made public on Monday, criticizing the company for profiting from unsavory posts.
“The stream of harmful revelations has continued including allegations that the company regularly breaks pledges to remove harmful content such as advertisements of alcohol and weight loss drugs targeted to minors as young as 13 years old, depictions of animal cruelty, and misinformation on the coronavirus and the 2020 presidential election,” the shareholder group wrote in a letter shared with The Post.
“Facebook has allowed militia groups that advocate violence to proliferate on its site, and its own studies reveal 32 percent of girls who feel bad about their bodies feel worse after spending time on the company’s Instagram platform,” the group added.
The letter was sent earlier this month by Harrington Investments and the Park Foundation, which are both Meta shareholders working with an activist group called the Campaign for Accountability. Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The mounting shareholder pressure comes as Meta faces outrage from lawmakers and the public over damning reports about its products’ effects on teen mental health. A Post investigation earlier this month showed that Instagram routinely hosts sickening images and videos that encourage eating disorders, despite the company’s pledges to crack down on such content. Meta was voted the worst company of the year in a recent Yahoo Finance poll.
The shareholders wrote in the letter shared that “a lack of rigorous risk oversight and culture at the company will ultimately result in further damage to shareholder value.”
The group wants Meta to allow an outside assessment of its Audit and Risk Oversight Committee, a board set up by Meta that makes decisions about content moderation issues such as former President Donald Trump’s ban from Facebook and Instagram.
“Whether or not the audit committee has done its job – or was ever positioned to fulfill its responsibilities from the outset – remains unknown,” Harrington Investments CEO John Harrington said in a statement to The Post. “An independent review of the committee’s capacity and performance is of the utmost importance; failure to act puts the board’s fiduciary obligation to all stakeholders, including shareowners, at escalating risk.”
“Facebook’s management policies are failing to keep users safe and eliminate flaws in these services,” Harrington added.
News of the shareholder letter was first reported by Axios.
Other Meta shareholders including the New York State Common Retirement Fund and Illinois State Treasurer collectively filed eight shareholder resolutions to address harms from the company’s sites, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month. The proposals include conducting a review of risks associated with the company’s metaverse push, according to the paper.
But efforts to change Meta from the inside can run up against a huge obstacle: Mark Zuckerberg.
The Meta founder and CEO controls a large number of “supervoting” shares that give him majority control in any shareholder vote, meaning that any internal efforts to rein him in can be vetoed by Zuckerberg himself.