Inflatable angry emoji looms over Facebook annual meeting as users vent frustrations
Protesters carrying an inflatable angry emoji greeted Facebook Inc shareholders as they gathered for the company's annual meeting on Thursday, the latest sign of its struggle to shake off privacy scandals and rein in fake news and hate speech.
The social media giant again faced demands for reform at Thursday's meeting, including shareholder proposals that called for revamping the company's voting structure and ousting Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg as chairman.
The measures had little chance of succeeding, as a dual-class share structure gives Zuckerberg and other insiders control of about 58 percent of the votes. Many investors have shrugged off the scandals swirling around the company, as it has beaten Wall Street's estimates for revenue growth and continues to add users globally.
Zuckerberg declined to answer a shareholder question on why he would not agree to create an independent board chair, instead of restating his view that regulators should set the rules for companies around privacy and content.
But even though the votes are largely symbolic, they are still seen as a useful barometer of investor sentiment about how well the social media icon is coping with unprecedented challenges to its hands-off approach to content.
Last year, about 83 percent of shares held by outside investors voted for a proposal that would have the company move to a structure of one vote per share and do away with the supermajority shares.
A coalition of activist groups have urged big investors to reject Zuckerberg's nomination to the board this year, saying Facebook has failed to protect users, especially racial and religious minorities.
Outside the hotel, a small group of protesters filmed themselves hoisting the 8-foot (2.5-meter) red emoji balloon, saying the company failed to protect its users, particularly minorities, from hate speech and other abuses.
"Zuckerberg has said that he wants to protect people from white supremacy, but there's still a ton of white supremacists organizing on Facebook," said Leila Deen, program director for SumOfUs, the group in the coalition responsible for the balloon.
Nearby, an opposing protester in a red hat stamped with "Make America Great Again," a slogan of U.S. President Donald Trump, used a loudspeaker to accuse Facebook of censoring conservatives.
The coalition, led by consumer group Majority Action and civil rights advocate Color of Change, said they had gathered 125,000 signatures on a petition targeting BlackRock Inc, one of Facebook's biggest outside investors.
BlackRock's funds backed all of Facebook's director nominees last year, but also voted for two shareholder proposals that would have reorganized Facebook's governance structure.
It declined to comment on the petition, with a spokesman saying it did not preview votes or comment on specific companies.
Other shareholders in the meeting said the company created a "hostile work environment" for people with conservative views and pressed for a diversity report reflecting its public policy positions.