The American Federation of Teachers on Wednesday encouraged the leaders of its members’ pension funds to support an independent evaluation of Facebook owner Meta’s risk management practices, which the teachers’ union said have failed to mitigate “clear threats” the social networking company poses to kids and teenagers.
Here are some key facts
AFT President Randi Weingarten asked state and local pension fund trustees, whose funds hold $6.3 billion in Meta stock, to vote in favor of a shareholder resolution that would instruct Meta’s board of directors to hire a law firm to evaluate the board’s performance at managing the risks posed by Facebook and Instagram.
Weingarten stated that AFT members helped students with anxiety, depression and other conditions that Weingarten linked to Instagram and Facebook.
In a filing, Meta’s board denied taking a cavalier approach to risk management and recommended shareholders vote against the proposal, claiming a third-party evaluation was unnecessary because it would not result in appreciably better performance from the committee.
With 1.7 million members, the AFT is the second largest teachers’ union in the U.S. after the National Education Association, which says it has 3 million members.
The AFT’s announcement came one day after the union hosted an online town hall event with Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager who in 2021 leaked thousands of pages of the company’s internal documents to the Wall Street Journal. These documents showed the company knew some of its products harmed users: One document posted to Facebook’s internal messaging board claimed 32% of teen girls with body-image issues felt worse after using Instagram, the Wall Street Journal reported. Haugen informed Congress that Instagram, Facebook, and Instagram were aware of how to make their platforms safer. However they weren’t prepared to sacrifice their profit margins for this. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta (then Facebook), responded in a Facebook post by decrying the media’s “false picture” of the company based on Haugen’s leaks and claiming the company’s research found Instagram often had a positive effect on teenage girls’ emotions. Zuckerberg stated that he supports greater regulation of social media platforms. A Morning Consult poll found that 55% of Americans had a positive opinion of Facebook in November, despite the scandals. Pew Research Center’s 2021 survey found that 69% and 40% of Americans use Facebook, respectively.
“Facebook Considered A Kids’ Social Network Once Before—But Parents Hated The Idea” (SME)
“Facebook Internal Research Found Instagram Can Be Very Harmful To Young Girls, Report Says” (SME)