Twitter AGM: Should the social network become a co-operative? Two million Brits would back the idea as shareholders prepare to vote

 
Lynsey Barber
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A small group of shareholders have a radical proposal to save Twitter (Source: Getty)

How do you solve a problem like Twitter? It's a conundrum where many can't live without it, but it's not making enough money.

But, nearly two million Twitter users in the UK would consider investing in the social media company if it were to become a co-operative, new research reveals.

Shareholders in the struggling social network will today vote on a left-field suggestion that the social media company should turn itself into a business owned and run by its members.

The firm's shareholders will vote on a proposal put forward by a small group of them at its annual general meeting asking Twitter's top brass to consider the move.

Read more: Twitter's revenue fell for the first time ever. But shares are soaring

The Twitter board, which failed in its calls for the US Securities and Exchange Commission to let it drop the suggestion, said "it believes that the proposal is not in the best interests of Twitter and our stockholders" and has recommended a vote against.

"We believe that preparing a report on the nature and feasibility of selling the 'platform,' and doing so only to 'its users,' would be a misallocation of resources and a distraction to our board of directors and management - resources and management time that could otherwise be used to build the long-term value of Twitter," the company said in its proxy statement.

The resolution would need the majority of shareholders to vote in favour for it to pass.

But fresh research from Co-operative UK and YouGov, suggests some support for the idea in the UK, at least. Some 14 per cent of the country's approximately 14m users would consider investing if it were to become a co-operative in the same vein as media company Associated Press and the Green Bay Packers football team in the US.

“Twitter is one of a new generation of businesses which do something that goes beyond the market. What future do we want for it? Do we want to try to find ways monetise Twitter in order to provide a return for shareholders? Or do we want to find a way to preserve what its users love?" said secretary general of Co-operative UK Ed Mayo.

“That Twitter ought to be a user owned co-op is a neat solution. It will give the platform a network of millions of people who can invest small sums to create a viable business offer. And it will give the people who use it the say over the big issues - how it deals with issues like abuse and extremism, what levels of advertising are acceptable, and what ultimately it does to remain sustainable.”

The move is being backed by Share Action, the UK-based campaign group for responsible investing.

Its chief executive Catherine Howarth said: “Our guidance for Twitter investors, in particular the socially responsible Investment funds, is to back proposal four, to promote a visionary new model of co-operative ownership for Twitter.”

Nearly 6,000 people - users and shareholders - have signed a petition calling on Twitter to consider the option while almost 40 co-operative groups from around the world have signed a letter in support.

City AM Would you back Twitter if it was a co-operative?

A failed sale attempt last year has left Twitter boss Jack Dorsey steering a rather large turnaround. While the platform is globally renowned, favoured by celebrities and able often to break news faster than news media, it has has difficulty making money.

Read more: Square, Jack Dorsey's payments company, is coming to the UK

Revenue fell into decline for the first time last month as advertisers turned to more favoured platforms such as Google and Facebook, though, that was not as bad as Wall Street had feared.

It's share price has yo-yoed over recent months, most recently boosted in an upward trajectory last week when it was revealed co-founder Biz Stone was returning to the flock to help "guide company culture" after leaving in 2011. Stock remains worth a third less than when it went public in 2013.

Its third founder Ev WIlliams who remains on the company's board but runs a new company that is behind blogging site Medium, this weekend apologised for Twitter's role in the rise of Donald Trump.

"If it’s true that he wouldn't be president if it weren't for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry,” he said in an interview with the New York Times.

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