Facebook takes ‘Supreme’ measure to review controversial posts

As Facebook faces mounting scrutiny over its privacy and content moderation practices, the company has decided to construct a new independent “Oversight Board” like an internal “Supreme Court” that will review appeals from both Facebook and its users over controversial posts.

For now, the board will begin its operations by hearing Facebook-initiated cases.

The system for users to initiate appeals to the board will be made available over the first half of 2020, the social media platform said in a statement detailing its central governing document on Tuesday.

“The ‘Oversight Board’ will make Facebook more accountable and improve our decision-making. This charter is a critical step towards what we hope will become a model for our industry,” said Nick Clegg, Vice President, Global Affairs and Communications, Facebook.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg in November 2018 first mooted the idea about how content should be governed on Facebook.

“If someone disagrees with a decision we’ve made, they can appeal to us first, and soon they will be able to further appeal to this independent board. The board’s decision will be binding, even if I or anyone at Facebook disagrees with it,” Zuckerberg said in a fresh letter.

“The board will use our values to inform its decisions and explain its reasoning openly and in a way that protects people’s privacy,” he added.

Facebook will promptly implement the board’s content decisions, which are binding.

In addition, the board may issue policy recommendations to Facebook, as part of its overall judgment on each individual case.

“This is how it was envisioned that the board’s decisions will have lasting influence over Facebook’s policies, procedures and practices,” said Brent Harris, Director of Governance and Global Affairs at Facebook.

The board will have a diverse and qualified group of 40 members, who will serve three-year terms.

“We agreed with feedback that Facebook alone should not name the entire board. Therefore, Facebook will select a small group of initial members, who will help with the selection of additional members,” said Harris.

Mired in several data privacy controversies, Facebook said it is working towards having the board deliberate on its first cases early in 2020.

“We are responsible for enforcing our policies every day and we make millions of content decisions every week. But ultimately I don’t believe private companies like ours should be making so many important decisions about speech on our own,” said Zuckerberg.

“That’s why I’ve called for governments to set clearer standards around harmful content. It’s also why we’re now giving people a way to appeal our content decisions by establishing the independent Oversight Board,” he added.

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