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15 Jan 2021

As You Sow, Boston Common Asset Management & 67 other investor groups

Investor letter to Alphabet calls for immediate action to stop spread of false & divisive information used to incite violence

As investors representing $395 billion in assets under management, we write to express our urgent concern about Alphabet’s approach to managing content that could be used to promote and organize violence in the days leading up to the Presidential Inauguration on January 20th. We urge the company to take immediate action to reduce the amplification of false and divisive information used to incite violence - not only in these critical next few days but also on a more permanent basis.

... Immediately, we believe the appropriate board committee should convene to ensure management has imposed adequate controls to mitigate imminent harm, and should report on Alphabet’s actions to address this urgent threat. We urge the board and management to quickly employ all means at the company’s disposal to do so in preparation for the inauguration, including disabling promotional algorithms and continuing to flag content for review before it is published, such as content with hashtags like #Stopthesteal and others related to governmental insurrection and violence.

In the longer term, Alphabet’s board and senior management must also address its business model and reliance on algorithmic decision making, which has been linked to the spread of hate and disinformation online. If Alphabet fails to take swift and comprehensive steps to curb the flow of disinformation and stop those using the company’s platforms to incite violence, we believe it would be exposed to significant material risks, and potentially entangled in a fundamental threat to our democracy.

Part of the following timelines

USA: 2020 Presidential election, business & human rights

Business leaders condemn violence at US Capitol