State treasurer has a Facebook obsession
October 19th, 2017
Illinois State Treasurer Mike Frerichs is pressuring Facebook to own up to its role in allowing Russia to meddle in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.
As treasurer, Frerichs oversees state investments that include a stake in Facebook. He began fighting in April to get the social-media company to put an end to bogus news reports.
“Facebook’s accountability for the spread of fake news cannot be outsourced,” Frerichs wrote in a letter to the company founded by billionaire Mark Zuckerberg.
In September, Facebook acknowledged that more than 3,000 political advertisements posted on the social-media network were linked to Russia. Some 10 million people saw the ads, which primarily targeted battleground states where Trump narrowly won. Some of the ads used socially divisive messages on such hot-button issues as gay rights and immigration.
“I was aware there was fake news but I didn’t realize that many Americans were consuming news that way,” Frerichs told me.
The state treasurer doesn’t have a personal Facebook page, but he does have a treasurer’s account.
Since his first letter to Facebook, Frerichs has pushed a shareholder proposal that would force the company to be more transparent. Last week, he wrote another angry letter — his third since April — to the company.
“The measures Facebook has taken to address this issue are insufficient,” Frerichs wrote. “The continued proliferation of fake news on Facebook is deeply troubling.”
Facebook, for its part, has been trying to placate Frerichs and other shareholders. Deborah Crawford, vice president of investor relations at Facebook, wrote back in an email, saying, “We take this very seriously.”