Investors push for social media checks ahead of US grand opening

BOSTON (Reuters) – Pension fund managers and religious investors on Friday called on major social media companies to step up content control efforts to reduce the threat of violence ahead of the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden. next week.

Effort is the ultimate pressure Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc on extreme rhetoric following the assault on the US Capitol last week by supporters of President Donald Trump.

In letters sent Thursday, investors – including New York State controller Thomas DiNapoli, the Service Employees International Union and the Unitarian Universalist Association – called for measures including disabling coding which they believe tends to elevate conspiracy theories and radicalize content, and for companies to continue to tag content with hashtags like #Stopthesteal.

In the long run, boards and executives need to review their “business model and dependence on algorithmic decision making, which has been linked to the spread of hate and disinformation online,” the letters state.

Alphabet representatives did not answer questions. A Facebook spokesman said he banned over 250 white supremacist groups and enforced rules such as those banning militias from organizing on its platform. A Twitter the rep cited actions taken such as suspending accounts that mostly shared QAnon content.

Violent rhetoric on social media platforms has increased in recent weeks as groups openly planned the meeting in Washington, according to researchers and public publications, sparking criticism from companies for failing to act early.

Twitter is Facebook banned Trump accounts last week as tech giants scrambled to crack down on Trump’s baseless fraud claims in the US presidential election.

Activist investors together manage about $ 390 billion in assets but own relatively small stakes in social media companies. Major industry shareholders so far declined to comment on their responses, including BlackRock Inc Vanguard Group Inc and Morgan Stanley.

Trump’s bans sparked concern among other investors that users and advertisers would be leaving for different platforms. Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said the decision was correct but set a dangerous precedent. Facebook Operations chief Sheryl Sandberg said the company has no plans to lift the ban.

Ross Kerber Reporting; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Raju Gopalakrishnan