Facebook shareholders want tech firm to share more about the impact of fake news

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Facebook shareholders want the tech firm to publish a report about how fake news on the social network is impacting free speech and democracy.

They didn’t get their wish.

On Thursday, the proposal put forth by Arjuna Capital and Baldwin Brothers was rejected at the company’s annual shareholder meeting. The rejection wasn’t a surprise since the board of directors opposed the plan and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg controls the majority of the tech firm’s voting rights.

Four other stockholder proposals also failed, including one that asked the company to elect an independent board of directors chair. Zuckerberg is currently the CEO and chair of the board.

Natasha Lamb, director of equity research and shareholder engagement at Arjuna Capital, told Facebook executives and shareholders that investors need to understand the full scope of the impact of fake news.

“When fabrication is disseminated so easily at scale, the way we have seen through Facebook social media platforms, it represents a threat to our democracy,” Lamb said.

If misinformation continues to spread, she said, Facebook users could lose trust in the social network and move on to another site.

“While the company has recently announced some steps to deal with the problem, they are a bit too little and too late,” she said.

In an opposing statement, Facebook outlined what the tech firm has been doing to combat fake news, including working with fact checkers to flag disputed stories.

The company’s board of directors thinks preparing a report on fake news is “unnecessary” and “not beneficial” to stockholders, the statement said.

Zuckerberg told shareholders that the tech firm has been focusing on combating fake news, making sure that people who spread fabricated stories don’t profit from the tech firm’s ad products.

But he believes that people should be exposed to more perspectives and opinions about different issues.

“I believe the right way to go about this problem is try to fight information with more information,” he said.

Yesterday, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said at a Recode conference that on Facebook the  “vast majority of the news items were fake,” and connected to the Russians.

“Put me out of the equation, they’ve got to help prevent fake news from creating a new reality. That does influence how people think of themselves, see the world, the decisions that they make,” she said.

When asked about Clinton’s remarks, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said she hadn’t seen the full transcript so she couldn’t comment.

But expect Facebook to do more to combat fake news.

“False news goes against what people want to see on Facebook,” Sandberg said.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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