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Meta shareholders raise concerns on "political entanglement" in India: key takeaways

Meta will vote on 13 shareholder proposals at its AGM on May 31—including concerns around its "political entanglement" in India and the issue of AI bias.

Meta shareholders raise concerns on "political entanglement" in India: key takeaways

Monday May 29, 2023 , 4 min Read

Facebook-parent Meta will vote on 13 shareholder proposals at its annual general meeting on May 31—including concerns around the social media company's "political entanglement" in India and the issue of AI bias.

Here are some key takeaways from Meta's filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission:

Proposal 7

Titled 'Assessing Allegations of Biased Operations in Meta's Largest Market', this shareholder proposal addresses accusations directed at Facebook regarding the spread of hate speech and its alleged inability to address risks and political bias.

Shareholders have also raised concerns about insufficient content moderation and a lack of transparency in the platform's practices, according to the Internet Freedom Foundation.

The resolution has been put forward by SumOfUs, acting on behalf of Mari Mennel-Bell. SumOfUs—now recognised as Eko—is an international non-profit advocacy organisation and online community.

The proponent holds the viewpoint that Meta's lack of transparency regarding India poses an immediate and significant threat to the company's reputation, operations, and investors.

Significant influence

Meta's platforms command a significant presence in India, with more than half a billion individuals using its services.

Highlighting this, the shareholders in their proposal suggest that Facebook plays a significant role in fuelling religious violence in India, adding that it failed to identify and address posts and individuals contributing to such risks.

Proposal 7 highlighted that before the February 2020 riots in Delhi, a leader of a prominent North Indian temple posted a video on Facebook openly calling for 'ethnic cleansing', which gained over 40 million views.

The proposal, quoting a Wall Street Journal report, also noted that Ankhi Das, Facebook's former senior policy official in India, opposed the idea of labelling a BJP politician as "dangerous" and banning him from the platform. Das claimed that taking action against the politician would negatively impact Facebook's business in India.

The shareholders also pointed out that Shivnath Thukral, who currently oversees public policy for all Meta platforms in India, had assisted in the BJP's election campaign in 2014.

Moreover, the effectiveness of content moderation in India is hindered by Meta's algorithms and human moderators' limited ability to comprehend numerous languages recognised officially in India, the proposal said.

Shareholders request

Shareholders have requested an impartial assessment of allegations regarding political involvement and content biases within Meta’s operations in India. The assessment should particularly focus on how the platform is used to incite ethnic and religious conflict and hatred. The results of this assessment should be disclosed in a report to investors.

Support for a ‘yes’ vote

Eko, India Civil Watch International, and Internet Freedom Foundation have launched a campaign to raise awareness about Proposal 7 among users of Meta platforms and urge the shareholders to vote in favour of the proposal.

Glass Lewis, a prominent advisory service overseeing assets exceeding $40 trillion and offering guidance to institutional investors, has recommended that shareholders should vote 'yes' on the proposal.

Meta’s response

Meta has expressed its commitment to upholding human rights throughout its business operations. It emphasised its dedication to fostering a team that embraces diversity and represents the global community of individuals who utilise its products and services.

The company affirmed its commitment to ensuring platform safety and integrity across all jurisdictions, including India. It highlighted the allocation of substantial resources to foster user respect and protect user safety within the Indian context.

Meta’s Board said, “We already provide extensive disclosure on our human rights policies and practices and have published an independent human rights impact assessment regarding potential human rights risks in India that we believe addresses the proposal.” 

Board voting recommendation

“Given our ongoing efforts to address this topic, the requested report is unnecessary and would not provide additional benefit to our shareholders,” Meta’s Board noted. "Therefore, our board of directors recommends that our shareholders vote against this proposal."

Shareholders meeting

Mark Zuckerberg, the Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Meta, who holds the largest ownership stake (13.4%), will be present at the AGM. Besides Zuckerberg, senior executives, nine members of Meta's Board, and other members of the leadership team will also attend. Notable shareholders include asset managers Vanguard (6.9% share), BlackRock (5.8% share), and Fidelity (4.7% share). 

It is worth noting that Zuckerberg's influence extends beyond his ownership stake, as he controls 61.9% of all votes due to his possession of super-voting shares.

Edited by Suman Singh