Tuesday October 15, 2019
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Facebook Investors Increase Pressure on CEO Mark Zuckerberg To Step Down

Facebook has also refuted allegation that it knew about Russian activity as early as the spring of 2016 but was slow to investigate it at every turn

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Facebook releases Messenger redesign on Android, iOS. Pixabay

Facebook investors have increased pressure on Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to step down after a New York Times investigation suggested that the social network hired a Republican-owned political consulting and PR firm that “dug up dirt on its competitors”.

According to a report in The Guardian on Saturday, Jonas Kron, Senior Vice President at Trillium Asset Management which owns a substantial stake in Facebook, “called on Mark Zuckerberg to step down as board chairman in the wake of the report”.

“Facebook is behaving like it’s a special snowflake. It’s not. It is a company and companies need to have a separation of chair and CEO,” Kron was quoted as saying.

The New York Times report suggested that Facebook hired Definers Public Affairs, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative firm which did PR work for the social networking giant “and dug up dirt on the company’s competitors and its critics”.

In a press call, Zuckerberg denied he had any prior knowledge about this firm.

Facebook
Facebook App on a smartphone device. (VOA)

“After reading the article, I got on the phone with our team and we are no longer working with this firm,” he said.

Definers allegedly “encouraged the depiction of Facebook’s critics as anti-Semites and had published news articles criticising Facebook’s competitors”.

Another Facebook investor Natasha Lamb from Arjuna Capital said the combined role of chairman and chief executive means that “Facebook can avoid properly fixing problems inside the company”, said the report.

According to TechCrunch, founded by a Republican campaign manager known for his dirt-digging prowess, Definers is far from a normal, politically neutral contractor.

In a statement, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg also denied any knowledge of the firm.

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg. Flickr

Facebook said that it used the consultant Definers Public Affairs to look into the funding of “Freedom from Facebook” to demonstrate that it was not simply a spontaneous grassroots campaign, as it claimed, “but supported by a well-known critic of our company,” presumably liberal financier George Soros.

“To suggest that this was an anti-Semitic attack is reprehensible and untrue,” the company added.

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Facebook has also refuted allegation that it knew about Russian activity as early as the spring of 2016 but was slow to investigate it at every turn.

As fallout of the report, Facebook stocks fell 3 per cent on Friday to $139.53, the lowest since April 2017. (IANS)

Next Story

Facebook Raises Questions Over EU Ruling on Removing Content

In a public Q&A, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had said that the ruling sets a "very troubling precedent"

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Corporate, America, Climate Change
FILE - In this April 30, 2019, file photo, Facebook stickers are laid out on a table at F8, Facebook's developer conference in San Jose, Calif. The Boston-based renewable energy developer Longroad Energy announced in May that Facebook is building a… VOA

Facebook has raised objections over the European Union (EU) ruling that the bloc’s member countries can not only order the removal of content in their own jurisdiction, but all over the world.

According to the social networking giant, the ruling opens the door for courts to order the removal of content that is similar to the illegal speech, “meaning that something you posted might be removed even if you knew nothing about the earlier post that a European country had deemed illegal”.

“Imagine something you wrote and shared on Facebook was taken down, not because it violated our rules, and not because it broke the law in your country, but because someone was able to use different laws in another country to have it removed,” Monika Bickert, VP, Global Policy Management at Facebook, said in a statement on Monday.

“Imagine as well that your speech was deemed illegal not by a judge who carefully weighed the facts, but by automated tools and technology,” she added.

The European Court of Justice has ruled that Facebook can be forced to remove content internationally.

The ruling arose from a personal defamation case brought by an Austrian politician.

The post in question shared a news article in which the Austrian politician had outlined her and her party’s views on immigration, together with a comment from a Facebook user strongly critiquing the Austrian politician.

facebook, WhatsApp, stories, feature
An iPhone displays the app for Facebook in New Orleans, Aug. 11, 2019. VOA

The court’s ruling raises critical questions for freedom of expression, in two key respects, said Bickert.

First, it undermines the long-standing principle that one country does not have the right to impose its laws on another country.

“This is especially important with laws governing speech, because what is legally acceptable varies considerably in different parts of the world and even within the EU. The ruling also opens the door for other countries around the world, including non-democratic countries who severely limit speech, to demand the same power,” said Facebook.

Second, the ruling might lead to a situation in which private internet companies could be forced to rely on automated technologies to police and remove “equivalent” illegal speech.

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In a public Q&A, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had said that the ruling sets a “very troubling precedent”.

“We have had precedents but we have successfully fought them. This is one where a lot of the details of exactly how this gets implemented are going to depend on national courts across Europe, and what they define as the same content versus roughly equivalent content.

“This is something we and other services will be litigating and getting clarity on what this means. I know we talk about free expression as a value and I thought this was a fairly troubling development,” Zuckerberg added. (IANS)