- A group of Twitter shareholders is urging the company to prepare a report on the steps its taking to combat fake news and other abuses of its service.
- The shareholders are also urging the company to include in the report the financial and other regulatory risks it faces from such abuses.
- The request comes in the form of a shareholder proposal; the company’s board of directors opposes the measure, saying the company is already doing and disclosing enough, concerning such fake news and other abuses.
Arguing that Twitter isn't taking the problems of fake news and hate speech seriously enough, a group of the company's shareholders are urging it to report back to investors on what steps it's taking to combat misinformation and other abuses of its service.
The New York State Retirement Fund and Arjuna Capital have filed a shareholder proposal that would encourage Twitter to put together a detailed report about how well it's doing enforcing its social network's terms of service, the company disclosed in a regulatory document on Wednesday. The shareholders are also urging the company to include in the report the possible financial and other risks it faces from fake news and similar controversies.
"Shareholders are concerned that Twitter’s failure to address these issues proactively has created regulatory, legal, and reputational risk," the investors said in their proposal. "We believe Twitter has an obligation to demonstrate how it manages content to prevent violations of its terms of service. Yet, disclosures have been inadequate."
For its part, Twitter's board of directors urged the company's investors as a whole to reject the proposal. The company has not only made numerous updates to its service and policies over the last year or so to address and reduce abuses, it says, it's been transparent about disclosing them. Providing more information to the public about such efforts could give "a roadmap for those bad actors who are seeking to evade abiding by our terms," the board said.
"Our board of directors believes that this proposal is not in the best interests of Twitter or our stockholders, and unanimously recommends that you vote 'against' this proposal," the board said in its written response to the shareholder proposal in the regulatory document.
Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, has been in the sights of regulators over the last year, following reports that Russian-backed groups hijacked those companies' services to spread propaganda and other misinformation in an alleged attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election. Twitter has also come under criticism for the abundant amount of hate speech posted on its service, and the numerous cases of harassment of particular users.
In their proposal, the retirement fund and Arjuna Capital listed some of the more notable incidents, and quoted both regulators and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey himself saying the company wasn't doing enough to battle offensive and illegal posts. The company hasn't seemed to be able to get ahead of the problem, they said.
Twitter's "content policies appear reactive, not proactive," the said.
Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., is among those policymakers who has scrutinized Twitter and other social networks over the Russian-linked propaganda campaign.Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite
As a result, they noted, regulators are stepping in — or threatening to do so. Germany has already put in place a new law that threatens to fine social networks if they don't quickly remove illegal posts, and US lawmakers are considering new regulations themselves, the proposal noted.
For its part, Twitter's board said that compared with last year, the company is "taking action" on 10 times as many accounts that violate its policies is suspending thousands more accounts each day than before. It's also provided regular updates to the public and policymakers about its investigation into the abuse of its service during the 2016 election, the board said.
"We [...] believe in being transparent with respect to our rules and how we enforce them, and have made significant progress in reporting out to all of our users on our progress," the board said.
In addition to the shareholder proposal, Twitter's regulatory document revealed that it paid Dorsey $0 last year. He didn't receive a salary, bonus, stock-based compensation, or any other compensation.
Instead, he "declined all compensation," according to the report.
However, the company paid Ned Segal, its new chief financial officer, $14.3 million in total compensation. Segal, who took the job in August, received a pro-rated salary of $165,385; a signing bonus of $300,000; a restricted stock award worth $13.8 million; and $1,500 in contributions to his retirement account.
Meanwhile, the document revealed that the median Twitter worker makes $161,860 in total compensation, including salary, bonus, stock grants, and retirement account contributions.