The New York State Common Retirement Fund, one of the nation’s largest pension funds, announced that it will vote to remove all of Twitter’s directors at this week’s annual shareholder meeting. The vote against the directors is unlikely to result in change, but it shows mounting institutional pressure for Twitter to resist Elon Musk’s vision for relaxed content moderation policies.
Thomas DiNapoli, the New York state comptroller and trustee to the estimated $279.7 billion fund, said the Twitter board of directors had repeatedly failed to enforce the company’s own content moderation policies.
“Allowing this content on social media platforms facilitates the radicalization of individuals through repeated exposure to violent rhetoric, hate speech and examples of previous violence,” DiNapoli wrote in the public letter to Twitter's directors. DiNapoli placed particular emphasis on Twitter’s failure to remove footage from a livestreamed mass shooting that took place in Buffalo, New York, last weekend. The alleged shooter espoused white supremacy ideology and pointed to social media sites including 4chan as the source of his radicalization.
DiNapoli called on other investors to join the vote against the board. Twitter’s largest institutional investors recently included Vanguard, State Street Global Advisors, BlackRock, Morgan Stanley and Fidelity. The New York pension fund was not among the top 10 largest investors.
Twitter shareholders still have to vote on whether to approve Elon Musk’s $44 billion acquisition bid. A self-described “free speech absolutist,” Musk has indicated his intention to revamp Twitter’s content moderation policies.
Since the initial takeover bid, however, Musk has strayed away from the free-speech-at-all-costs stance: “If they say something that is illegal or otherwise just destructive to the world, then there should be perhaps a timeout, a temporary suspension, or that particular tweet should be made invisible or have very limited traction,” he said earlier this month at the Financial Times' Future of the Car conference.
Musk recently said the deal cannot “move forward” until Twitter provides more information on the number of fake accounts on the platform. That calls into question whether the deal would proceed, even if shareholders vote in favor of an acquisition. Twitter executives told employees last week that they would not be open to renegotiating the agreed-upon acquisition price.
This story was updated on May 23 to clarify that there is no date yet set for Twitter's acquisition shareholder vote.