Earlier this year, a group of tech policy experts formally announced the creation of a “Real Facebook Oversight Board.” While the idea has been met with some excitement, some critics are skeptical of the board’s ability to deliver on its promises. Some activists are hoping that the oversight board will help bring to light a variety of issues affecting social media.
The social networking
The Oversight Board is a private organization that provides a quasi-judicial mechanism for scrutinizing content decisions by Facebook. It operates through a carefully crafted framework designed by the social networking company. As a result, the board has limited power to make real changes to the way Facebook operates. Rather than examining the big picture, the oversight board concentrates on expert-led self-regulation of a narrow set of content moderation decisions.
Although the Oversight Board has had a number of high-profile cases to rule on, the group has yet to prove its ability to influence the direction of Facebook’s business. Currently, the group is confined to ruling on posts deemed to have been wrongfully removed by the company.
Despite its name, the Oversight Board is not a court. While it is capable of making some decisions in the public interest, it is not able to subpoena internal documents from Facebook. This limits its ability to act as a watchdog.
In addition, the Oversight Board’s decision-making process is not a particularly transparent one. Its members have not been fully forthcoming in providing information to the board. For instance, the board has yet to decide on whether to allow the sharing of pictures of dead children on Facebook. Likewise, it has not commented on the algorithms that make Facebook’s content decisions.
Nevertheless, the Oversight Board does have the distinction of having formulated a working model for how a platform-governing body might work. By leveraging the expertise of the board’s lawyers, media professionals, and human rights experts, Facebook has been able to construct a more formal structure that has the potential to address the company’s most controversial content.
The necessary information
Among other things, the Oversight Board has demonstrated that it can overturn a small slice of the thousands of content decisions made by Facebook each month. In fact, the Oversight Board has overturned eleven of the 500,000 disputed content decisions it has reviewed. However, the Oversight Board has been criticized for its reliance on Facebook for the necessary information to make its recommendations.
During a meeting of the board on Monday, Zuckerberg said that his goal was to ensure the safety of his users. He also called on governments to take steps to clarify what is and is not harmful speech on the internet. But, in addition to the board’s other initiatives, the Oversight Board has been the subject of an ongoing controversy. Many analysts have criticized the board’s failure to disclose information.
The Facebook Oversight Board has been at the center of several scandals and debates, including a recent dispute over its handling of a hate speech complaint. It is currently evaluating the best approach to handle content decisions that have been controversial.