Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and executive chairman, created an independent oversight board for the company. This body is tasked with criticizing Facebook’s business practices and protecting the company’s integrity. It is an advisory entity that will eventually include 40 members.
The limited language
Initially, the Oversight Board focused on a narrow line of content moderation decisions. These decisions were based on the idea of expert-led self-regulation. However, the board struggled to obtain the data needed to make its decisions. In addition, the limited language capabilities hampered its ability to properly gauge the context of content under review.
Facebook has attempted to avoid difficult conversations about back-end operations and the role of the board in the company’s policy decisions. To that end, the Oversight Board relies on a contract that includes sharply defined contractual terms. The agreement, which is also publicly available, outlines that Facebook should respond to the board’s recommendations within 30 days, and that the board’s decisions will be published and made public.
Generate genuine change
Since its inception, the Oversight Board has faced a number of criticisms. Many people have said that the decision was too late, and some have criticized the board’s conduct as censorship. However, the board’s effectiveness is highly dependent on its ability to generate genuine change in Facebook’s corporate practice.
While the Oversight Board has issued 15 rulings so far, it has only upheld one takedown decision. This was the decision to remove a post on the social network by an anti-Muslim group in Myanmar. The board’s decision was accompanied by a statement that was not intended as a condemnation of the group’s behavior, but rather a commentary on the case.
The Oversight Board is an advisory entity that will be governed by a panel of five experts. Each member will be chosen jointly with Facebook. These experts will serve three-year terms. As with the co-chairs, the members were selected based on global consultations. Several notable defenders of freedom of speech have been selected to serve on the panel, including journalists, academics, and former government leaders.
The Oversight Board was created to address the spread of misinformation, hate speech, and organized violence on Facebook. It is an experiment at the cutting edge of rule of law. It uses the principles of international human rights to evaluate cases. It includes voices from the political left and right.
When the Oversight Board began, the board’s members were selected by Mark Zuckerberg and other co-chairs. They were paid six-figure sums for their work. However, the members haven’t been transparent about the decision-making process.
The overarching integrity
The structure of the Oversight Board creates an imbalance of power. Although it’s an advisory body, its decision-making process is controlled by the Board, which is a corporation. The board members aren’t subject to the same level of scrutiny as other stakeholders, such as the board’s Trustees. Thus, the overarching integrity of the entire structure remains in question.
Though the Facebook Oversight Board is a crucial tool in combating the spread of disinformation and hate speech, it’s important to remember that it cannot overrule content that has already been removed by Facebook. That means the Oversight Board will only be able to issue rulings on individual posts, not entire groups. Moreover, the board’s members don’t have a voice in the company’s amplification algorithms or its balance between user engagement and community safety.