Science, Technology, and Social Media

SEC Rules Major Tech Company Can’t Block Free Speech Resolution

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) declined on Tuesday Apple’s request to block votes for a “free speech” shareholder resolution.

The resolution, submitted by the American Family Association (AFA), would have Apple investigate how it curates content and issue a report to address concerns that company policies enable restricting speech based on viewpoint. The SEC shot down Apple’s bid to exclude the resolution from the ballot at its upcoming 2024 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, ensuring a vote on the resolution in the spring, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

Apple’s terms of use app restrict apps with “content that is offensive, insensitive, upsetting, intended to disgust, in exceptionally poor taste, or just plain creepy…particularly if the app is likely to humiliate, intimidate, or harm a targeted individual or group,” as well as “any content or behavior that we believe is over the line.”

In November, the ADF submitted a letter urging the SEC not to let Apple block the resolution, noting that the company’s terms “remain rife for abuse by Apple itself or third-party activists or governments who may want to coerce Apple to restrict user speech or religious freedom.”

ADF Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President for Corporate Engagement Jeremy Tedesco said the SEC’s decision “is a much-needed step toward transparency.”

“Apple needs to rebuild trust with its shareholders and customers, but that can’t happen unless it answers basic questions about whether it is treating everyone equally regardless of their political or religious views,” Tedesco said in a statement.

Apple has blocked religious speech in the past, including removing the Manhattan Declaration app in 2010 and banning the pro-life news organization LifeSite News from Apple News in 2019. Additionally, it has removed popular Bible and Quran apps from the Chinese app store at officials’ request.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is also investigating Apple for potential antitrust violations relating to its app store policies. DOJ antitrust unit chief Jonathan Kanter said in a recent interview with the Financial Times that the probe is “firing on all cylinders,” according to Apple Insider.

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