Fake news will be a topic at Facebook’s annual shareholder meeting

Facebook shareholders are calling on the company to study its role in spreading fake news.

A proposal that will be voted on at Facebook’s annual shareholder meeting asks the company to issue a report detailing how false new stories are a threat to democracy and Facebook’s own reputation. They also want a more complete explanation of what the company is doing to combat the spread of fake news on its platform.

Shareholder proposals like this one, which the company opposes, are rarely successful. But it shows how quickly fake news became a threat to Facebook’s reputation.

“In light of the societal crisis generated by the explosion of fake news and related hate speech, failure to effectively manage this issue creates public policy risk,” the shareholders say. “Free speech rights and freedom of expression are also at risk in the face of information blacklists, censorship, legal liability or regulation.”

Facebook has banned fake news publishers from its ad network and started a slew of new initiatives, including using machine learning to identify fake news and working with third-party fact-checkers. The company has also begun educating users on how to identify and report hoax stories. And it’s learning to be more proactive: Facebook banned 30,000 fake accounts in France before the country’s elections take place.

The issue of fake news on Facebook emerged during the 2016 US presidential election, when the company struggled with the peddling of misinformation, propaganda and hyperpartisan articles. Nearly two-thirds of American adults say fabricated news stories cause “a great deal of confusion” about basic facts of current issues and events, according to Pew Research Center.

Facebook’s board of directors has recommended voting against the shareholder proposal. The company cited the measures it has already taken to curb the spread of false information as well as its existing policies against hate speech and anti-spam filters.