Facebook has finally named the first members of its independent content oversight board which was created to solve the issues of problematic content like hate speech on its platform.
The independent board dubbed the Facebook “Supreme Court,” has a new list of 20 members which includes a former prime minister, constitutional law experts and rights advocates across the world. According to Facebook, the board will make decisions about what kind of content can and can’t be allowed on the platform.
Facebook Content Moderation Woes
In the past, Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg and his team have faced several public backlashes following the way they handle content moderation on the platform.
Cases like doctored videos of politicians during election campaigns, fake news, hate speech and nudity are some of the contents that have brought increased scrutiny of Facebook.
To solve the problem, Facebook created a content oversight board which will be independent of the company. The board will have the power to overrule Facebook’s and Zuckerberg’s decisions on content posted on Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook’s Oversight Board
The boards’ initial list of 20 members is expected to grow to about 40 members. According to the company, the selected board members have lived in 27 countries and speak at least 29 different languages.
The co-chairs of the board include former US judge, Michael McConnell,
Colombian attorney, Catalina Botero-Marino, law expert Jamal Greene and former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
The unveiled list of members also includes Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Tawakkol Karman, former editor-in-chief of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridge, Former Human Rights judge, András Sajó, Pakistani digital rights advocate Nighat Dad and Internet Sans Frontières Executive Director, Julie Owono
According to Facebook, they start work immediately but hearings on cases won’t start until summer. It added that the board will initially focus on cases where the content was removed.
However, this does not mean the board will handle all content complains made to Facebook. The board will focus on the small percentage of challenging content issues that could find no resolution after passing through Facebook’s usual appeal process.
Speaking about the board, Co-chair and former US judge, Michael McConnell, clarified that the board is not an internet police that solves every content problem.
“We are not the internet police, don’t think of us as sort of a fast-action group that’s going to swoop in and deal with rapidly moving problems,”Michael McConnell, Co-chair and former US judge,
Facebook expects the board to initially take about a dozen cases, a small percentage of the thousands of cases it forecasts the board will receive. Once the board makes a decision, it must be implemented within 90days. Facebook, however, have the opportunity to ask for a 30-day review for exceptional cases.
The board can also make policy recommendations to Facebook based on case decisions, to which the company will publicly respond to.
Can Facebook’s Supreme Court really Overrule Zukerberg?
Currently, complaints on posts taken down or posts left-up by Facebook is made through Facebook’s community moderation team. However, the team, led by Zuckerberg has a history of making decisions unpopular with the public.
Before the oversight board was created, any decision made by the community moderation team was final as there was no way to further dispute it.
The kick-off of the oversight board means people unsatisfied with Facebook’s decision can petition the board as it reportedly has the power to overrule Zukerberg on content decisions.
However, beyond just repeating what has reported, the fact that the board was created by Zukerberg sparks curiosity as to if it truly can overrule the CEO.
Facebook has, however, said that the content oversight board is independent of the company. It added that it doesn’t have any influence on how and what decisions are made.
“We’re not working for Facebook, we’re trying to pressure Facebook to improve its policies and its processes to better respect human rights. That’s the job,” said Nicolas Suzor, a board member
To further, ensure the independence of the board, Facebook announced that the $130 million it pledged to the operation of the board for the next 6 years will be placed in a trust that the board has control over.
The content oversite board comes at a time when content management is very important especially with the spike in users due to the pandemic. Having the right content management helps keep out undesirable contents without hindering freedom of expression.
With millions of users, Facebook handling just a few dozen cases would hardly make a dent in the overall grand scheme of problematic contents like fake news, hate speech on the platform. However, Facebook’s supreme court could provide a way for the company to avoid making unpopular decisions by leveraging on the experience of the board on highly controversial content.
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