Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg faced sharp criticism Thursday during the company’s annual shareholders meeting about how the company operates, deals with violence and handles fake news.
Shareholders submitted five proposals critical of the company’s top-heavy structure, as well as the way Facebook curates its content. All five were heard and rejected by majority vote; Zuckerberg controls more than 50 percent of Facebook’s shareholder votes.
Arjuna Capital and Baldwin Brothers, two smaller investors, called on Facebook to publish a report examining the public policy implications of its guidelines around “fake news.”
“To be clear, we are talking about content that is posted and disseminated with the intent to mislead, not the mainstream media, which the president refers to as fake news,” said Natasha Lamb, Arjuna Capital’s director of equity research and shareholder engagement. She added that Facebook needs to take clear action on the issue or risk alienating its audience. Lamb also spoke on behalf of a petition to have Facebook release information about its gender pay disparity, saying the firm is lagging behind its competitors on this front.
Another group, SumofUs, had filed a petition to remove Zuckerberg as Facebook’s chairman, arguing that his current role gives him far too much power. “We don’t think you should be your own boss, Mr. Zuckerberg,” representatives from the consumer watchdog group said at the meeting.
In an open question-and-answer session, the Rev. Jesse Jackson asked Zuckerberg to develop an independent advisory commission to address the growing trend of Facebook users sharing violent videos. “There is no place for live killings to be broadcast on Facebook,” Jackson said.
Zuckerberg, who took questions after a brief speech, addressed some shareholder concerns.
He acknowledged that Facebook’s mission has changed somewhat since it went public five years ago with the stated mission of connecting friends and family. “We have this growing realization that . . . is not enough,” he said. “We also have to proactively work to build community and bring people closer together.”
He added that Facebook is a place that should support good discourse, while also making sure that people have the ability to share what is important to them. He said that it is important that people see a variety of viewpoints and that it is the most effective way to find the truth.
“The big issue that we face today is just having one side of the story at a time,” he said.
But even as he spoke about Facebook’s place in shaping public discourse, Zuckerberg rejected the idea that his tech firm has become a media company. He said the firm’s problems are still technology problems with technology solutions and pointed to artificial intelligence as a way to address these issues over time. But, echoing previous statements on the subject, he asked for patience when it comes to finding a solution. “It’s just going to take longer than we all want to get to the state-of-the-art,” he said.