Meta and Twitter boards face backlash from New York pension fund

SAN FRANCISCO – A major New York pension fund that has invested in both Facebook’s parent company and Twitter thinks it’s time to shake up corporate boards over their failure to steer violent content away from their influential social media services.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund outlined its grievances with Facebook owner Meta Platforms and Twitter in separate May 19 letters that were filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday ahead of the companies’ annual shareholder meetings.

Letters from New York Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli chastised Facebook and Twitter for failing to prevent the distribution of video clips and screenshots of the May 14 massacres at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. The shooting was broadcast live by the self-proclaimed white supremacist accused of killing 10 people on Twitch, an Amazon-owned video game service, who said he blocked the video in two minutes.

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But the disturbing scenes in this video continued to appear on Facebook and Twitter, prompting DiNapoli to lash out at the companies for their failure to “control the spread of hate speech and content inciting violence”.

In protest, DeNapoli said pension funds will vote against Meta and Twitter directors seeking re-election Wednesday at the companies’ respective board meetings and will also urge other investors to dissent.

Nine Meta directors, including the company’s CEO and majority shareholder Mark Zuckerberg, are up for re-election. Only two of Twitter’s nine permanent directors are up for re-election at this year’s annual meeting. The terms of the other seven Twitter directors expire next year or 2024. By then, they could disappear if Tesla CEO Elon Musk completes a proposed $44 billion purchase of Twitter that is currently in the works. limbo.

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Both Meta and Twitter declined to comment on DeNapoli’s letter, but defended their content controls, including their efforts to prevent the Buffalo shooting footage from reappearing.

The New York pension fund‘s opposition to the boards of Meta and Twitter seems unlikely to bring about change since it does not rank among the top 15 shareholders of either company, according to FactSet Research.

As of March 31, the pension fund said it owned $1.1 billion worth of Meta shares, which was about 4.9 million shares at the time. By comparison, Meta’s largest shareholder, The Vanguard Group, currently owns more than 171 million shares, or a 7.4% stake, according to FactSet.

The New York pension fund held $34.6 million in Twitter stock as of March 31, which translates to about 894,000 shares at that time. Vanguard Group is also Twitter’s largest shareholder with more than 79 million shares, or a 10.4% stake, according to FactSet.

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Dolores W. Simon