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Those familiar with Facebook may have heard of the Oversight Board. This quasi-judicial organization, staffed by experts, is tasked with finding ways to improve the company’s integrity. Despite its name, the Oversight Board does not make any pronouncements about algorithms, but instead focuses on issues related to user-generated content. In fact, the board has overturned 11 of the 500,000 content decisions disputed by Facebook.

A good reputation

The Oversight Board is not the only entity tasked with evaluating Facebook’s performance. There are several others, including a congressional inquiry and a government oversight panel. But, while the Oversight Board has a good reputation, it is not without fault. Its reliance on Facebook for the implementation of policy decisions creates a degree of power imbalance.

For instance, the Oversight Board is not allowed to comment on the balance between user engagement and community safety. While the board does mention that it reviewed more than 500,000 requests from users, it does not commit to reviewing more than a thousand documents. Thus, the board is unable to make meaningful statements about how Facebook’s algorithms work or the balancing act between user engagement and community safety.

On the other hand, the Oversight Board does have a fairly comprehensive list of impressive-looking acronyms. However, it is unclear how these can be applied to the actual performance of Facebook.

Largest social network

One of the most important functions of the Oversight Board is to create a basis for discussion of international human rights. Several reports have called the Oversight Board an international human rights tribunal. Although it is too early to know how useful such an entity could be, there is no question that it has the power to raise the curtain on the world’s largest social network.

Another interesting function of the Oversight Board is its reliance on Facebook. While the Oversight Board is a paid expert group, its members are not independent, but rather are sheltered in a limited liability shell. This structure allows Facebook to avoid having to answer ethical and legal questions. And, although it does not comment on algorithmic decision-making, it does take the requisite steps to minimize the appearance of bias.

The organization

As is the case with many companies, the Oversight Board has been embroiled in controversy. Some have described the organization as a quasi-judicial body, and others have dubbed it the “Facebook Supreme Court.” Regardless, the board has done the simplest of things: it has examined 20 cases that involve Facebook and issued 15 decisions.

A related feature of the Oversight Board is its use of sharply defined contractual terms. These include a Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, a Statement of Business Ethics, and a Statement of Obligations. All are applicable to developers, advertisers, and other parties that display advertisements on Facebook through the Platform.

Discriminatory activity

In addition to the aforementioned advertising guidelines, there are a number of other policies that apply to the Facebook platform. Among these is the Advertising Guide, which is designed to protect users and ensure that the ads that appear on the platform are not misleading or discriminatory. Advertisers are also prohibited from using Facebook to facilitate illegal, misleading, malicious, or discriminatory activity, as well as to defraud or confuse users.

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