On August 1, Meta’s Oversight Board overturned the company’s original decision to leave up a Facebook post that mocks a target of gender-based violence. The board said that during its decision-making process, it identified a gap in Meta’s existing rules which “seems to allow content that normalizes gender-based violence by praising, justifying, celebrating or mocking it.” It recommends that Meta should, “undertake a policy development process to address this gap.”
What is the Oversight Board?
The Oversight Board is an independent body that people can appeal to if they disagree with decisions that Meta makes on Facebook or Instagram. When fully staffed, the board consists of 40 members from around the world who are “empowered to select content cases for review and to uphold or reverse Facebook’s [now Meta’s] content decisions,” according to the Oversight Board’s website.
In May 2021, a Facebook user in Iraq posted a photo that shows a woman (an activist from Syria) with visible marks of a physical attack, including bruises on her face and body. It had a caption in Arabic that said that the woman in the photo wrote a letter to her husband which he misunderstood, according to the caption, due to the woman’s typographical error. When the caption and images are looked at together, they imply that the woman’s husband beat her up because of the error.
In February 2023, a Facebook user reported the content three times for violating Meta’s Violence and Incitement Community Standard. However, despite being reported the content was never reviewed by a human moderator and stayed up for two years.
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The findings of the Oversight Board:
The board says that it has found that this post would not have violated Meta’s rules on bullying and harassment if the woman depicted was not identifiable, or if the same caption had accompanied a picture of a fictional character. This, it says, points to a gap in the company’s policies which allows content normalizing gender-based violence to exist on the platform.
Other cases being deliberated by the Oversight Board:
Besides this case, the board is also looking into two videos both posted on the same Facebook page and featuring a man interviewing a woman about her experience observing a fruit juice-only diet. These videos were both flagged for violating its Suicide and Self Injury Community Standard. The board says that these cases are being heard to address how Meta’s content policies and enforcement practices address diet, fitness, and eating disorder-related content on Facebook.
It is also going to review a video posted to Facebook of a street procession in Odisha, which shows a person standing on a building nearby, who then throws what appears to be a stone at the procession. In response, people from the procession start throwing stones back at the building. This is being discussed to assess Meta’s moderation policies and practices in contexts involving communal violence.
Both these discussions are open for public comments until 23:59 Tuesday, August 15.
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