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The Facebook Oversight Board is an independent entity designed to oversee content moderation decisions made by Facebook. This board has been working to bring in outside experts to review content moderation decisions. Its members include former heads of law and journalism, human rights lawyers, academics and other stakeholders. However, the board has struggled to gather the necessary information from Facebook, and its language capabilities make it difficult to fully assess the context of the content under review.

Policies and processes

In order to function as an effective oversight body, the new board needs to have its own authority to weigh in on policies and processes. This authority should be enshrined in a charter. A charter could also include explicit standards for international human rights. These standards should be incorporated into the charter to ensure that the charter complies with the standards of international law.

As an independent institution, the Facebook Oversight Board does not have the capacity to oversee every piece of content that is posted on the Facebook platform. But the board has been able to make a significant impact on a small number of cases involving controversial content. The Oversight Board is not a court, but instead a quasi-judicial monitoring institution, similar to an international human rights tribunal. Although its first rulings were not binding, the board overturned a number of disputed content decisions.

Content moderation

When the Oversight Board released its first transparency report, it identified 38 decisions made by Facebook that did not comply with the principles of content moderation. They included the deletion of a post, a post being retracted and a post being removed. There were no specific details about what had happened to each of these posts, and the user did not have a clue why they were removed.

While the Oversight Board has overturned 11 of the 500,000 disputed content decisions that have been issued by Facebook, there have been some criticisms of the board’s performance. In particular, some observers have questioned whether the board had the necessary autonomy to weigh in on content. For example, some commentators have questioned the board’s reliance on international law.

Confidential documents

While the Oversight Board has established its authority in a narrow slice of content moderation decisions, it has yet to establish the ability to hold Facebook accountable with users. That said, the report does offer a glimpse of how the Oversight Board works. It shows that the program’s scope is large, and that it will release quarterly reports. Interestingly, the report did not include the so-called Leak, a leak of confidential documents relating to the creation of the Oversight Board, which was reported on by media outlets in December.

In addition, the report showed that the Oversight Board has not been transparent about its decision-making processes. While the board has committed to addressing these issues, it did not provide any details about the underlying reasoning for its decision. Even the report did not address the reasons why the Leak happened. So, how can the Oversight Board be considered independent?

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