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Shareholders fail to axe Zuckerberg as Facebook chairman

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg

By Jamie Harris

Mark Zuckerberg will remain as Facebook chairman after an attempt to strip him of the position put forward by a group of shareholders was rejected.

Investors in the social network are growing increasingly agitated with Mr Zuckerberg holding both chairman and chief executive roles amid "a seemingly endless stream of controversies and data breaches", one shareholder said during an annual general meeting.

However, Mr Zuckerberg was unlikely to be rattled by leadership questions, given he holds the majority of the voting power.

Investment firms such as Trillium and NorthStar have long called for the 35-year-old to stand down from his chairman post and focus on being chief executive, urging him to follow the example of other tech firms such as Google owner Alphabet, Apple and Microsoft, which have independent board chairs.

Outside the meeting, protesters convened to voice their concerns about Mr Zuckerberg's power, while the Fight for the Future advocacy group projected a 'Fire Mark Zuckerberg' display.

Abigail Shaw of NorthStar Asset Management said during the meeting: "We estimate that last year over 80% of independent shareholders voted yes on this proposal, therefore telling Mr Zuckerberg and the board that they are unhappy with the current arrangement.

"Shareholders continue to have no resource against the board or management when scandals pull down shareholder value. It is no secret that our company has struggled in the past two years due to a seemingly endless stream of controversies and data breaches.

"These include critiques of the company's likely role in proliferating fake news that affected the 2016 US election, stories that, quote, laid bare Facebook's lax policies around the use and sharing of user information, and risked losing users' trust in the platform and multiple allegations that the company's communications app WhatsApp and even the Facebook platform itself facilitated the spread of hate in places such as Myannmar (Burma) and India, which led to violence and aided in genocide."

In closing remarks, Mr Zuckerberg did not address calls for him to reduce his power directly, but spoke of his goals to make Facebook more transparent, and its plans to make the social network more privacy-focused.

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