20 Jun 2016 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Confronted Over Anti-Conservative Bias: Sits Mute in Response
Free-Market Investor Urges Social Media Giant to Increase Transparency to Combat its Liberal Workers’ Innate Biases
National Center for Public Policy Research Calls Out Facebook’s Assault on Conservative Free Speech While Also Going After Liberal Activist Investors Who Would Limit Facebook’s Free Speech Rights
Shareholder Meeting Veteran: “Amateur hour as chaos and disorganization ruled the day” at Facebook Meeting
Redwood City, CA / Washington, D.C. – At today’s utterly muddled annual meeting of Facebook shareholders held in Redwood City, California, a representative of the National Center for Public Policy Research questioned the social media giant’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the company’s mistreatment of conservative groups and its biased news platform.
“It was amateur hour as chaos and disorganization ruled the day at today’s Facebook meeting,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. “From the beginning – when the meeting didn’t even start on time – to the company’s inability to follow its own guidelines and agenda for the meeting, it was clear that Facebook’s management team had little respect for its investors in attendance. And the company’s continued denial that it has ever been biased against conservatives flies in the face of reality.”
“Despite the company’s protestations, it is quite clear that it continues to mistreat conservative groups and individuals. Most conservatives have known for years that Facebook is biased against them, but the evidence was largely anecdotal,” added Danhof. “However, in May, former Facebook workers went on the record and confirmed those suspicions, telling Gizmodo that the company routinely suppresses conservative news. Facebook was caught with its hand in the cookie jar and held one meeting with Glenn Beck and a few other conservatives to try to calm the waters. Today, we put Mr. Zuckerberg and the rest of Facebook’s leadership team on notice that one meeting with a few conservatives does not make up for the continuing mistreatment of conservative individuals and organizations.”
At the meeting, Danhof asked Zuckerberg, in part:
Whether you’re willing to admit the company has a bias problem or if you think bias is merely a matter of perception, the fact is that perception is very often reality. Facebook has an extra duty to overcome this problem now that the company has been called out by former employees for targeting conservatives.
My question is this: what affirmative steps are in place to increase transparency regarding Facebook’s news section and its removal of pages and posts, and what do you have to say to the conservative individuals and groups who have been harmed – and continue to be harmed – by the company’s biased actions?
Danhof’s entire question, as prepared for delivery (before being cut substantially after Facebook allowed questioners only one minute, despite a small audience and the fact that most companies allow questioners at least three minutes), is available here.
“When I confronted Zuckerberg over Facebook’s mistreatment of conservatives, he sat mute and deferred to another company executive. That gentleman claimed that Facebook’s own internal investigation had exonerated the company, saying that there is no bias against conservatives on the company’s platforms. In his next breath, though, he admitted that Facebook is making changes to its trending news platforms,” noted Danhof. “Why is Facebook making changes if there is nothing wrong?”
“When Facebook was caught red-handed targeting conservatives, the company self-selected a few conservative folks, held a meeting, and then thought the issue was over. If any conservative was likewise convinced that the issue is over and that Facebook is now playing it straight, today’s meeting should cause them pause. I am now more convinced that if Facebook employees are targeting conservatives – and there are legions of examples of this occurring – that Zuckerberg wouldn’t have a clue that it’s happening,” said Danhof.
“Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg clearly moves in an elitist Silicon Valley circle in which conservative thought and opinion is verboten. While it’s totally fine for him to engage in extreme leftwing politics and public policy issues in his personal life, as the CEO of a company whose role in the media landscape is growing, he should be aware that his personal actions are often applied to Facebook’s brand,” added Danhof. “If Zuckerberg’s goal is to make Facebook a media platform on par with MSNBC and the New York Times – where only far-left thought is allowed – then he should just be honest with his investors and consumers and say so. But if the company is going to claim that it presents the news objectively, it certainly has a long way to go.”
While expressing concern over Facebook limiting the free speech rights of conservatives, Danhof also spoke out at the meeting against a shareholder proposal that was designed to limit Facebook’s free speech rights. The proposal, which was submitted by the Philadelphia Public Employees Retirement System, attacked Facebook’s affiliation with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Despite having full remarks to deliver in opposition to the proposal, Danhof was only able to briefly mention it, as Facebook failed to follow its own rules for the meeting, which stated that brief remarks about shareholder proposals would be allowed (as is standard practice at other public corporations).
“At the outset of the meeting, all of us investors were handed rules of conduct for the meeting. These rules specifically allotted a separate time for questions and comments regarding the proposals, apart from the general question and answer session,” said Danhof. “When time came for those questions and comments, I went to speak but was told that the company would not be taking any comments or questions regarding the proposals. When I pointed out that the company’s own rules handed out as the meeting began stated otherwise, I was simply told that the rules had changed. But when could they have possibly changed? The company’s inability to issue its proxy statement in a timely manner, follow its own rules for its meeting or to provide any explanation for these major errors, shows an incredible level of disrespect for its investors.”
Danhof’s prepared remarks noted that:
Facebook has made itself fertile ground for attacks such as this proposal. When liberal activists attacked the company for its affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Facebook was quick to end its membership with the organization despite the fact that ALEC works to create a pro-business environment that allows companies such as Facebook to thrive. Obviously, leaving ALEC didn’t satiate the activists. Now they want Facebook to dump the Chamber of Commerce – another organization that works to reduce regulatory burdens and government infringement on company operations. Do you see the pattern?
The resolution is on page 86 of the company’s proxy statement, which is available here.
Danhof’s full statement against the Philadelphia Public Employees Retirement System proposal, as prepared for delivery, is available here.
“Some conservatives who have been slighted by Facebook may believe we shouldn’t defend the company against such attacks on its free speech, but our movement must stay consistent on First Amendment issues,” said Danhof. “The left has all but abandoned the concept of free speech and is now using college campuses, board rooms, the Internet and the courts to try to diminish conservative speech. At the Free Enterprise Project, we will continue to push back against these unconstitutional attacks when and where we can.”
The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. In 2014-15, National Center representatives participated in 69 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues. Today’s Facebook meeting marks its 18th shareholder meeting of 2016.
The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is also featured prominently in Wall Street Journal writer Kim Strassel’s new book “The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech,” which goes on sale tomorrow.
The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for free issue alerts here or follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter.