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Facebook’s external content review board: How it will be formed and what will it do

In November 2018, Facebook had announced that it would form a new external oversight board in 2019 to handle some of its content policy decisions. The board was meant to make decisions on how to handle misinformation, hate speech, harassment, and other problematic content circulating on Facebook.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg had said that the power to control content and decide what should be on Facebook should be not concentrated solely in the hands of Facebook: “I do not believe individual companies can or should be handling so many of these issues of free expression and public safety on their own.” He added that “if the group ends up too tightly decided by Facebook it won’t feel like it’s independent enough.”

The initial plan was that when someone reports content, Facebook will carry out the first and second levels of review given that an individual appeals to a content-related decision made by Facebook. Any appeal beyond two reviews would go to the oversight body, which will take a final call on the content.

Last week, Facebook released a draft charter (pdf) detailing the formation and procedures for this board.

These are initial proposals/suggestions by Facebook on the board:

  • The board will include experts from “content, privacy, free expression, human rights, journalism, civil rights, safety and other relevant disciplines.”
  • Facebook suggests that the board should consist of 40 members, who Facebook would choose after it publicly announced the required qualifications, while giving special consideration to “geographic and cultural balance” and “diversity of backgrounds and perspectives.”
  • Once formed by Facebook, the board will be responsible for the future selection of members.
  • The list of members will be public, the board will be supported by full-time staff of Facebook. Members would serve part-time for a fixed term of 3 years
  • The board will not include former or current Facebook employees, contingent workers of Facebook or government officials.
  • The board will examine cases by Facebook users and by Facebook itself, and is allowed to call on experts – “all supplementary linguistic, cultural and sociopolitical expertise necessary” – to make a decision. The board can overturn Facebook’s decisions as well.
  • The panel’s decision will be made public with appropriate privacy protections for users; the board has to provide an explanation for each of its decisions

Facebook will hold workshops over the next 6 months to get feedback on the board’s proposed formation and functions. These workshops will be held in Delhi, Singapore, Nairobi, Berlin, New York, Mexico City, among other unspecified locations.

Election safety in India

Facebook has an estimated 330 million users in India, amongst the most in the world. In Facebook’s earnings call for this quarter, the company said that its 1.5 billion DAUs were driven by India, Indonesia, Philippines. With impending elections in India, Facebook began an offline process of verifying all political advertisers, along with a soon-to-be-launched political ads library.

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