National Legal and Policy Center has submitted a shareholder proposal asking Apple Inc. to made a report on human rights, and specifically, free speech. The 2019 Apple annual meeting will take place in Cupertino, California in early 2019. Here is the text of the proposal and supporting statement:
Whereas, the Securities and Exchange Commission has consistently recognized that human rights constitute a significant policy issue.
Freedom of speech and association are fundamental human rights.
The Company operates in nations with systematic human rights abuses. The Company has abetted certain governments and non-governmental organizations in suppressing freedom of speech and association.
For example, our CEO in March 2018 co-chaired the so-called China Development Forum, sponsored by the Communist Chinese government. In December 2017, our CEO keynoted the World Internet Conference, another Chinese government event.
In February 2018, the Company transferred operation of its iCloud data center in mainland China to a state-owned enterprise called Guizhou-Cloud Big Data. The Company’s relationship with Beijing now looks more like a partnership.
At home, the Company contributed $1 million in shareholder funds to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which seeks to silence and smear groups and individuals with which it disagrees on policy issues.
Shareholders request management review its policies related to human rights to assess whether the Company needs to adopt and implement additional policies and to report its findings, omitting proprietary information and prepared at a reasonable expense by December 31, 2019.
In its report, the Company might consider a congruency analysis between its stated corporate values and its actions.
The Company purports to support free speech. The CEO accepted a “Free Expression Award” from the Newseum in 2017.
Yet the Company is assisting in the implementation of Xi Jingping’s digital dictatorship in China, the most ambitious assault on free speech in human history. The CEO headlined events at which the architects of this impending dictatorship openly described their totalitarian goals and methods.
The Company is complicit in the suppression of free speech in the United States. Much of SPLC’s actions are calculated to silence, intimidate, and make impossible civil discourse. In the weeks before the Company’s donation, SPLC’s credibility was being questioned, with commentators in publications such as the Wall Street Journal detailing and condemning its smear tactics.
The SPLC modus operandi is not very sophisticated. It attempts to discredit responsible, mainstream groups and individuals by giving them the same “hate” designation as extremists like the Ku Klux Klan.
SPLC put the Family Research Council (FRC), which opposes same-sex marriage, on its “hate map.” In 2012, a gunman named Floyd Corkins entered FRC’s offices and opened fire, wounding a security guard. His intent was to “kill as many as possible and smear the Chick-fil-A sandwiches in victims’ faces, and kill the guard,” as he told the FBI. Corkins also told investigators that he used the SPLC website to target FRC.
Victims of SPLC defamation are starting to fight back. In June 2018, SPLC entered into a $3.375 million settlement of a lawsuit by Maajid Nawaz, a critic of Muslim extremism, and his organization, the Quilliam Foundation. SLPC offered its “sincerest apology” for its “mistake.”
The requested report will allow shareholders to evaluate the Company’s actual commitment to human rights.