On June 1, 2017, Facebook shareholders rejected two shareholder resolutions calling on the company to analyze the public policy implications of the publication of content with “the intent to mislead” n the Facebook newsfeeds. The resolutions were subject to a vote in Facebook’s annual shareholders’ meeting in California, but were rejected by shareholders, upon the recommendation of Facebook management.
The spread of misleading news, colloquially referred to a fake news, is believed to have shaped world events in 2016. Fake news content is important because it shapes people’s mindset on certain issues, affecting civic engagement and undermining the democratic process. The public policy implications of fake news can, therefore, be significant and negative impacts can be long-term in nature.
The Business Case
Due to pressure from media and different stakeholder groups, Facebook initiated in 2016 measures to effectively curate fake news out of its newsfeed, although CEO Mark Zuckerberg also acknowledged that there is more that Facebook can do. The failure to curate fake news raises the risk of reduced usage by Facebook subscribers, and in the long-term departure of its users to an alternative social media site should a new one emerge. At the moment, Facebook’s short-term risk lies in users reducing Facebook usage, which could impact advertising revenues.