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Facebook launched an independent oversight board in 2018. The group is tasked with determining the company’s content policy and moderating high-profile cases. It is funded by an independent trust. Among its members are former heads of state, academics, lawyers and media professionals.

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However, the Board is not capable of addressing the business model issues, which are outside its purview. For instance, advertisements, which are not considered user-generated content, are not within its remit. Similarly, algorithmic amplification is not a part of the Oversight Board’s remit.

One major criticism of the Oversight Board is its lack of ability to address larger issues affecting Facebook’s business model. While the Board may make non-binding recommendations on how to solve some content moderation problems, it is limited in its power to change how Facebook operates. As a result, the public’s perception of the board’s effectiveness depends on whether or not it can actually force real change in Facebook’s corporate practices.

The recommendation

During its first five months of operation, the Oversight Board ruled on six cases. Of these cases, the board issued 15 decisions. In some instances, Facebook did not follow the recommendation of the Oversight Board, e.g. when it decided not to remove a post that contained an offensive photo of a dead child.

While the board did not rule on the content that was placed on Facebook, it did review the company’s ejection of President Trump from the platform. It refused to grant Trump’s request for an indefinite ban. On the contrary, the board criticized the company’s general approach to moderating world leaders.

Involving harassment

A report in December revealed the first six cases involving harassment on the social networking site. Facebook did not identify which users were involved, but it did provide details on the cases. Although the Facebook board’s response was thorough and detailed, it did not address the issue of whether or not the company was in violation of its own rules. Instead, the response focused on content moderation.

However, the Facebook board’s response largely avoided discussing the larger issues, and its response reframed the conversation around the company. This was partly due to the fact that the Oversight Board is not equipped to comment on the balance between user engagement and community safety. If the Oversight Board had the capacity to discuss back-end operations, Facebook might have been able to avoid the controversy altogether.

Human rights experts

Facebook’s board is composed of 20 experts from around the world. They include journalists, academics, former heads of state and human rights experts. There are also several political figures, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman, who has a history of supporting non-violent change in Yemen during the Arab Spring.

While it was welcomed by some activists, critics have pointed out that the Oversight Board’s powers are too limited to tackle the bigger picture. Because the Board is not a court, it can only make judgments based on the rules of Facebook itself. Thus, it is unable to subpoena internal documents from the company.

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