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Facebook’s Oversight Board picks up an Indian case for review

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Facebook’s Oversight Board, which started proceedings on its first batch of cases earlier this week, has picked up an additional case, this time from India. The Board is an independent body that can review Facebook’s content moderation decisions. None of the earlier six cases were concerned with India directly.

The case the Board will consider — referred by Facebook itself — is of a user’s appeal against content removal for allegedly violating the company’s “violence and incitement” policy. In a Facebook group, a user posted a picture of a man in leather armour holding a sheathed sword in his hand. The photo had Hindi text that “discusses” unsheathing the sword in response to “infidels” criticising Prophet Mohammad. It also had English text calling French President Emmanuel Macron “the devil” and calling for a boycott of French products. This was likely posted in the aftermath of terror attacks in the country after alleged insults to the prophet.

Facebook has told the Board that the post could convey a “veiled threat” to Macron, during a time of heightened tensions in France. The company said it found it difficult to find balance between determining the threat of potential real-world violence, and users’ ability to express their religious beliefs.

What is the OSB? The Board was first proposed in 2018, in response to criticism of Facebook’s lacklustre enforcement of its community standards. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said the Board’s decisions cannot be overruled by the company. The first 20 members of the Board were announced in May this year, who have begun accepting appeals from users only recently. It has received more than 20,000 appeals so far, but will hear only those of “critical importance”, the Board said earlier this week.

Each of the cases — now seven, in total — will be heard by five-member panels. Each panel will also have one Board member from the region the case pertains to. The Board will complete hearings, and Facebook will implement them, in 90 days of a case being taken up. The Board has also sought comments from the general public on the cases.

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***Correction (17:30 IST, December 4) : The headline of this story did not have the word “Board” in it. This has been corrected. The error is regretted. Originally published at 11:20 IST, December 4.

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