Top Facebook shareholders want Zuckerberg out. It’s about time.

By Zachary Blackwell

Elm Staff Writer

The integrity and security of social media platforms is incredibly important today, which relies on lightning-fast communication between groups of people. Facebook remains the largest social media platform, but has recently had security issues of its own. Its chairman and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has been under fire for the numerous scandals that have happened at Facebook under his watch.

Facebook has gone through several different data security scandals, many of which have become public since the beginning of 2018. A series of data breaches that harvested information from tens of millions of users have done much to erode confidence in the Facebook brand. And now, the mistrust surrounding Facebook has also garnered the attention of its shareholders, who now are seeking to remove Zuckerberg from his position as chairman.

Four public funds that are shareholders of Facebook are backing a proposal to oust Zuckerberg. The state treasurers of Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, as well as New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer co-filed the proposal, which was originally filed by Trillium Asset Management, on Oct. 17.

This is not the first time that a shareholder proposal seeking a change in leadership has been filed. In 2017, Facebook’s board of directors backed a similar proposal seeking an independent chair, but it was defeated by Zuckerberg. But because Zuckerberg has most of the voting power (nearly 60 percent among Facebook investors), the proposals have not had any effect on Zuckerberg’s job. Instead of threatening Zuckerberg’s position as chairman, the proposal serves the symbolic role of ensuring that their dissatisfaction at the policies of Facebook is noticed.

Facebook has been a dominant cultural force for several years. It has been the torchbearer of social media platforms, the defining example of modern forms of communication and socialization online.

I may never have created my own Facebook account before, but I must admit that it is impossible to use the Internet and be able to completely ignore Facebook’s existence. Even though I don’t have a Facebook, I know a lot of people who do. To think about the Internet without Facebook is almost heretical.

While Facebook itself may not go anywhere, at least in the foreseeable future, it certainly has lost a massive number of users in the past couple of years. The myriad of scandals has caused Facebook to hemorrhage users.

There is no member of Facebook’s staff that is more deeply ingrained in the public eye than Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg can’t control everything, even while he is both CEO and chairman of Facebook. But it can be said that many people will never trust Facebook again until he is removed, at the very least, as the public face of the company.

After numerous security problems that Facebook has had, you wonder: What will it take for Zuckerberg to learn his lesson? What will it take for a leadership change at Facebook? If compromising the data of tens of millions of users isn’t enough, then what will be?

These are difficult questions that many users of social media hoped they would never have to ask. But with how porous Facebook data has proven to be, these dilemmas must be confronted.

Removing Zuckerberg as chairman may seem like nothing more than an attempt to pin a multi-faceted issue on a convenient scapegoat. It is true that just removing Zuckerberg would probably alleviate some of the mistrust of the public towards Facebook, and convince shareholders that Facebook is dedicated to making sure that these types of data breaches will never happen again. But at the pace that the data breaches have been happening, removing Zuckerberg will only do so much. The entire company will need to make radical changes if it hopes to get people to trust it with their data again. And such changes aren’t just skin deep.

The shareholders, as well as the public, are right to mistrust how Zuckerberg has handled the company. Seeking his removal as chairman is one step in the right direction, but dismissing him and doing nothing else concrete would be nothing more than a band-aid on a gangrenous wound. Facebook desperately needs a new chairman that values the privacy and security of its users, and it needs to find a reliable leader quickly before it eventually loses its long-held status as the preeminent social media platform of the world.

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