This morning, a new SEC filing from Arjuna Capital was made public. This is a self-described “activist” investment firm specializing in “socially responsible” and “sustainable” investing.
They ask Twitter shareholders to vote in favor of Proposal 6 at the May 25th shareholder’s meeting. This proposal will create a new position of an independent board member, to be filled by someone with a “high level of human and/or civil rights experience.” In other words, a professional political activist.
We can see in the document what kind of people Arjuna Capital considers “Civil Rights” experts. As sources, they quote Brandi Collins-Dexter, from the group Color of Change, The New York Times columnist Kevin Roose, the state-funded British Broadcast Corporation, the Action Center on Race & The Economy, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, The Intercept, and University of Warwick researchers Karsten Müller and Carlo Schwarz.
They denounce the platform for “negatively impacting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities worldwide,” “perpetuating racial bias,” and allowing content to be “weaponized by racists.”
They note that Twitter Board Member Jack Dorsey gave $3 million to Colin Kaepernick’s “anti-racism” hustle but says the company needs to do more to protect “Black activists.” They state that members of Black Lives Matter need to be protected from “state violence” and being “tracked” by law enforcement of the platform.
Arjuna states that more censorship is needed to stop another “January 6th white supremacist attack on the capital,” “Black voter suppression,” and “COVID conspiracy theories.” They say Twitter failed to ban US President Donald Trump soon enough and accuse Donald Trump of personally fueling “anti-Muslim” hate crimes with his tweets.
Arjuna boasts that Twitter already takes more aggressive censorship action than Facebook or YouTube. However, they say a lot more is needed.
Twitter’s ability to attract views — and therefore advertising dollars— is often linked to its role in steering consumers toward racist, violent, discriminatory, rights-violating, or disinformation content. Shareholders are concerned that Twitter’s business practices are most negatively impacting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities worldwide, while also threatening democracy.
Twitter permanently banned former President Donald Trump from its platform in January 2020 “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” That action was viewed by many as too little too late.
Twitter data has been used to surveil civil activists and provide information to law enforcement on legal protests. Twitter enabled police to surveil Black Lives Matter protests through a data startup, “a practice that potentially exposes people — particularly Black, Indigenous, and people of color — to further surveillance and state violence.”
To say that Twitter has adequately addressed human and civil rights is a gross overstatement. Rightly, the company is scrambling to build some internal scaffolding to address the racism, sexism, hate, and violence perpetuated on its platforms. But Twitter continues to ignore the root cause—a business model that is fueled by click bait and user profiling. It is the board’s responsibility to steward business strategy and address this root cause issue.
This is the full proposal from Twitter’s Schedule 14A (Originally submitted by Arjuna Capital):
WHEREAS, Shareholders believe Twitter requires expert, board level oversight of civil and human rights issues to assess risk and develop strategy to avoid causing or contributing to widespread violations of human or civil rights, such as voter suppression, disinformation and hate campaigns, or violence.Twitter reports “…if we are not able to address user concerns regarding the safety and security of our products and services or if we are unable to successfully prevent or mitigate…abusive…behavior on our platform, the size of our engaged user base may decline.”Civil rights advocates have criticized Twitter for ineffectively addressing racism, sexism, and hate speech. Henry Fernandez, Center for American Progress, says, “The muted efforts of giant social media companies to address racial violence and hate crimes perpetrated via their platforms have had terrible consequences,” noting “white nationalist rhetoric being fueled on social media leading to real-world violence including mass killings in El Paso, Texas; Gilroy, California; and, Christchurch, New Zealand.” The January 2021 insurrection was also largely a result of violent rhetoric, misinformation, and organizing on Twitter.Last year, Lauren Underwood, Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Innovation called out Twitter’s use by organizations attempting to silence Black voters, requesting disclosure of “measures put in place to counter voter suppression, interference, and disinformation targeting Black voters.” A Senate report on Russia’s election interference using social media platforms concluded, “No single group of Americans was targeted by information operatives more than African-Americans.”Ranking Digital Rights reports: “Facebook, Google (Youtube), and Twitter lack oversight and risk assessment mechanisms that could help them identify and mitigate the ways that their platforms can be used by malicious actors to organize and incite violence or manipulate public opinion.” Amnesty International’s 2021 Twitter Scorecard states, “For many women and nonbinary persons, Twitter is a platform where violence and abuse against them flourishes, often with little accountability.” Amnesty found 23 percent of women experienced abuse or harassment at least once on Twitter. While Twitter claims to have enhanced safety and privacy measures, 82 percent of women believe Twitter remains the “same” or “worse” at addressing hateful and abusive content.As fiduciaries, our Board is responsible for stewardship of business performance and must effectively manage risk factors like violations of human and civil rights. Strategic Management Journal reports “misalignment between the board’s expertise and the firm’s future risks has negative implications for firm performance.” Amidst civil and human rights controversies, Twitter’s stock price has risen approximately 10 percent since its IPO, compared to a 167 percent rise of the S&P 500.RESOLVED, Shareholders request that Twitter’s Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee nominate for the next Board election at least one candidate who: (a) has high level of human and/or civil rights experience and is widely recognized as such as determined by the Board, and (b) will qualify as an independent director within the standards of the New York Stock Exchange.