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Meta Shareholders to Vote on Child Safety Impacts Proposal

Investors are calling on the company to implement an annual assessment of child safety policies and practices.

NEW YORK, NY, TUESDAY, MAY 30TH, 2023 — Tomorrow, Meta ($META) shareholders will have the opportunity to vote on a shareholder proposal asking the company to publish an annual report assessing the effectiveness of its online child safety practices. 

Meta is the world’s largest social media company, with billions of children and teen users. Meta’s platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp, have been linked to numerous child safety impacts and social policy challenges.

Baroness Beeban Kidron, who is a global advocate for children’s rights, founder of 5Rights Foundation, and a lawmaker instrumental in passing child online safety legislation in the UK and California, will speak at the annual shareholder meeting on behalf of the proposal. Kidron is the architect of the Age-Appropriate Design Code, which has been widely applauded for its significant redesign of the online world, including social media, to better protect children’s privacy.

During her remarks to Meta shareholders, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Baroness Beeban Kidron will say:   

“Mark and Priscilla Zuckerberg have said that they will dedicate their riches to better the lives of children, particularly young girls. But we are asking for something more immediate and more difficult: That Meta led by Mark Zuckerberg with his controlling shareholding, the source of their great wealth, takes care of children, particularly girls by design and default. Year after year resolutions come to the board that would, if accepted, bring to an end the era of exceptionalism in which young men in Silicon Valley have built behemoth companies at the expense of the well-being and, in some cases, even the lives of children.  Year after year these resolutions are not taken forward.”  

I ask the Board – starting with Mr. Zuckerberg -  to treat all the world’s children as they would their own, and declare war on the self-harm, pro-suicide, pornographic, and child sexual abuse material – upon which the value of their shareholding is built - and instead, make a commitment to building the digital world that young people deserve, whatever the cost.” 

Said Michael Passoff, CEO of Proxy Impact the lead filer of the proposal on behalf of Lisette Cooper, Vice Chair, Fiduciary Trust International, “The internet was not developed with children in mind. Social media impacts children’s brains differently than adult brains. It also poses physical and psychological risks that many children and teens are unprepared for, including sextortion and grooming, hate group recruitment, cyberbullying, exposure to sexual or violent content, invasion of privacy, and self-harm content, among others.” 

Anita Dorett, Director of the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, noted that “Applying the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, child rights risks are salient risks for tech and digital platform companies, requiring Meta to take steps to effectively address harms to children.  Investors are holding Meta to account to provide transparency and public reporting on their performance globally regarding adverse child rights’ impacts and actual harm reduction to children on its platforms.” 

The proposal comes at a time when there is growing concern about the impacts of social media on teens and children. Last week, the U.S. Surgeon General’s report on Social Media and Youth Mental Health called this an “urgent public health issue”. Legislative pressure on the tech sector is mounting, not only in the U.S. with bi-partisan support behind the Kids Online Safety Act and Age-Appropriate Design Codes but also in the UK and on the EU level. The UK Online Safety Bill is set to address a variety of online harms and keep children from accessing harmful material, while the EU Digital Services Act will make identifying, reporting, and removing child sexual abuse material mandatory.

The shareholder proposal highlights specific child safety concerns including:

  • Child Sexual Exploitation:  In 2022 there were more than 32 million reported cases of online child sexual abuse material (CSAM) in the U.S. More than 27 million of these—or 85%—stemmed from Meta platforms. The number of Meta’s CSAM reports increased 69% from its nearly 16 million reports in 2019 when shareholders first raised this issue with the company.

  • Mental Health: Meta’s own company research showed Instagram’s negative impacts on teens’ self-image, increased rates of depression and anxiety, and a link to suicidal thoughts. 

  • Data Privacy: In September 2022, Meta was fined over $400 million for failing to safeguard children's information on Instagram. 

  • Cyberbullying:  A UK study found that Instagram accounted for 42% of online bullying, followed by Facebook, with 39%.

The shareholder proposal was co-filed by members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility including the Adrian Dominican Sisters, Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, Inc., Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, NJ, and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. 

The proposal has the support of the two largest proxy voting service providers—Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis. In 2022, a proposal asking about online child sexual exploitation on Meta platforms received the support of nearly 910 million shares, representing about 57% of the non-management-controlled vote. 


About the Investor Alliance for Human Rights
The Investor Alliance for Human Rights is a collective action platform for responsible investment that is grounded in respect for people’s fundamental rights. The Investor Alliance’s over 200 members include asset management firms, public pension funds, trade union funds, faith-based institutions, family funds, and endowments. Collectively, they represent nearly US$12T in assets under management and 19 countries. The Investor Alliance is an initiative of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.  Visit our website at: https://investorsforhumanrights.org/ and follow us on Twitter: @InvestForRights

About Proxy Impact
Proxy Impact provides shareholder engagement and proxy voting services that promote sustainable and responsible business practices. For more information, visit www.proxyimpact.com 

About 5Rights Foundation
5Rights develops new policy, creates innovative frameworks, develops technical standards, publishes research, challenges received narratives, and ensures that children's rights and needs are recognized and prioritized in the digital world. https://5rightsfoundation.com/