“Year after year resolutions to protect children come to the board that you block,” said Kidron, founder of the 5Rights Foundation nonprofit. “The choice you are making is to put your commercial interest above the needs of children, even when it costs them their lives.”
The move was unsuccessful, with shareholders following Meta’s recommendation and rejecting the proposal.
But the attempt shows that children’s safety advocates are turning to new strategies to up the pressure on tech companies, as efforts to enshrine safeguards for kids face roadblocks at the state and federal level.
The proposal, led by shareholder Proxy Impact, would have required the tech giant to conduct and release an annual report including metrics “assessing whether Meta has improved its performance globally regarding child safety impacts and actual harm reduction to children.”
Lawmakers in Washington and in statehouses around the country have sought to impose similar requirements for tech companies to vet their products for potential harms to kids before rolling them out, including as part of efforts to replicate Britain’s so-called age appropriate design code.
While they succeeded in getting those standards signed into law in California, they have so far failed to convert in a series of other states amid an intense lobbying blitz by industry groups, as Cat Zakrzewski and I reported. State officials in Minnesota, Maryland and New Mexico failed to get their own bills over the finish line before their legislative calendar ran out this year.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill, meanwhile, have been unable to overcome political hurdles and pass expanded protections for kids online, despite broad bipartisan support for the cause.
“This diversity of tactics is absolutely needed to rein in the abuses of such a powerful industry,” Josh Golin, executive director of the advocacy group Fairplay for Kids, said of the shareholder vote Wednesday.
The company has previously considered shareholder proposals pertaining to children’s safety, but Wednesday’s meeting marked a rare instance of a prominent advocate joining the fight.
Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a top congressional champion for efforts to bolster protections for kids online, said he was “grateful to all the advocates, parents, physicians, and young people who are organizing to hold Big Tech accountable for its failures.”
“Congress has a responsibility to act to expand online protections and ensure we have laws on the books for kids and teens in the 21st century,” he said in a statement.
Meta’s board of directors urged shareholders to reject the proposal on Wednesday, arguing in a proxy statement that it would not “provide additional benefit.”
The board noted that it has developed over two dozen tools aimed at protecting kids online, including parental controls, and already regularly publishes information on its safety efforts.
“We have the same goals as parents and policymakers: we want young people to have safe, positive experiences online and we publish Community Standards Enforcement Reports quarterly to track and demonstrate our commitment to online safety and inclusivity,” they wrote.
The company shot down a slew of other proposals on Wednesday, including measures to consider expanded protections for abortion-related data, to look into potential “censorship” directed by government officials and to address allegations of “bias” in its operations in India.
Meta threatens to block news services in California over journalism bill
Meta is threatening to block California users from exchanging news articles on its social media platforms in protest of a state legislative proposal that would force tech companies to pay media publishers for their content, our colleague Naomi Nix and your newsletter host report.
“The social media giant said Wednesday that if the California Journalism Preservation Act passes, the company would ‘be forced’ to pull news from Facebook and Instagram in the state rather than agree to pay news outlets the journalism usage fee that the bill would require,” the report says.
The company last month said it would stop delivering news content on Instagram and Facebook in Canada if the nation passed a bill that would require social media companies to pay publishers when they feature their work.
“Lawmakers in Washington D.C. dropped a measure last year that would have created a temporary carve-out in antitrust law to allow publishers to band together to negotiate with the tech giants over the distribution of their content after Meta said it would ‘consider removing news from our platform’ if it passed,” the report adds.
U.S. fines Amazon over alleged child privacy violations
Federal regulators on Wednesday said Amazon will pay $25 million to settle allegations that its Alexa voice assistant violated a children’s privacy law when it allegedly failed to delete children’s recordings and location information, our colleagues Caroline O’Donovan and Cat Zakrzewski report.
Regulators argue the company violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 by recording kids and using transcripts of the recordings to improve its product — even after deletion requests. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
“More than 800,000 children under the age of 13 have their own Alexa profiles, according to the lawsuit filed by the Justice Department on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission. The voice assistant is especially popular with young children who can’t read but can access information and entertainment by talking to the device,” Caroline and Cat write.
The United States also fined the Amazon-owned Ring surveillance company $5.8 million, alleging the company let employees view sensitive videos of customers’ homes, the report adds.
“At Amazon, we take our responsibilities to our customers and their families very seriously,” Amazon spokeswoman Parmita Choudhury said in a statement, adding that the company disagrees with the allegations but that “these settlements put these matters behind us.”
Rubio asks Justice Dept. to investigate if TikTok CEO lied during testimony
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is calling on the Justice Department to investigate whether TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew committed perjury when he testified to Congress in March.
Chew told House lawmakers that U.S. user data “has always been stored in Virginia and Singapore in the past,” but Rubio in a tweet cited a report by Forbes’ Alexandra Levine indicating that U.S. TikTok creators’ sensitive financial info has been stored on servers in China that are accessible to employees based there.
TikTok has come under scrutiny from the United States and other Western governments mainly over national security concerns. The Biden administration is supporting a bill that would allow the Commerce Department to evaluate the security risks of foreign technologies like TikTok and make recommendations about whether they should be banned from the United States.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who chairs the House committee where Chew testified:
TikTok has NOT been transparent about where they store Americans’ data.
New reporting by @Forbes confirms that TikTok stores Americans’ highly sensitive and personal information in CHINA. TikTok is a threat to our national and personal security.https://t.co/gZNjCMPXGT
— CathyMcMorrisRodgers (@cathymcmorris) May 31, 2023
The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.
TikTok spokesperson Alex Haurek told Forbes, “We remain confident in the accuracy of Shou’s testimony.” TikTok parent ByteDance did not respond to the publication’s request for comment.
ChatGPT boss wants HQ in Europe (Politico)
EU tech chief sees draft voluntary AI code within weeks (Reuters)
Elon Musk greeted with flattery and feasts during China trip (Reuters)
The AI boom extends into domain names (Axios)
Meta seeks to force FTC into court to change privacy settlement (Bloomberg News)
US seeks to curb investment in Chinese chips, AI and quantum computing (Reuters)
Amazon workers walk out amid layoffs, citing concerns for climate (Caroline O’Donovan)
Where are all those food delivery fees going? We tested three apps to find out. (Hamza Shaban, Faiz Siddiqui, Alexis Arnold and Joe Fox)
- The News Media Alliance has named Danielle Coffey, who has served as its executive vice president and general counsel, as its new president and CEO.
- Jessica Salmoiraghi joined BSA | The Software Alliance as senior director for IT modernization and procurement. She previously served at the General Services Administration.
- The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds a discussion titled “Korea and U.S.-China Competition” at 9:30 a.m.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider amendments to bills aimed at preventing drug trafficking on social media platforms and preventing online child exploitation at 10 a.m.
- The Hudson Institute holds an event on China and U.S. national security at 2 p.m.
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