All About Facebook’s Oversight Board
It started with Facemash, a site comparing people’s faces and choosing who’s hotter. Then, Mark Zuckerberg got the idea of creating an online directory for Harvard students – Facebook. Today, it is the third most visited online site globally. With 2.85 billion monthly active users (MAU), Facebook is now the king of social media.
According to a social media agency Hong Kong, as Facebook users grow, the platform was challenged in moderating a huge number of posts. With different cultures, demographics, and regions, it is very hard to promote a balance between freedom and policy regulation. As such, Facebook tried to find ways on how they can best achieve the balance of both worlds. The result – the formation of an “Oversight Board” – an independent body to handle decisions on disputed content.
WHAT IS THE FACEBOOK OVERSIGHT BOARD?
Millions of pieces of content are posted on Facebook and Instagram every day. However, some can be problematic. These include decisions on what can be allowed or removed on Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook believes that they should not be deciding alone on what is and what isn’t acceptable online.
This is because Facebook knows that they don’t have all the answers. As such, Facebook creates the “Oversight Board.”
Last 06 May 2020, Facebook welcomed its Oversight Board. It is the new content moderation model for both Facebook and Instagram. The Oversight Board is an independent body of 20 quality experts from 27 countries speaking 29 languages. They are tasked to review the most challenging content pieces on Facebook and Instagram. The board intends to make principal decisions on content that supports people’s ability to express themselves. Their members include people experienced in civil rights, journalism, technology, and many other disciplines from the private and public sectors.
WHO ARE THE MEMBERS OF FACEBOOK’S OVERSIGHT BOARD?
Facebook has made a series of global consultations from its critics and supporters with more than 650 people in 88 different countries. This is to carefully select the members of the Oversight Board based on their valuable inputs. A digital marketing speaker Hong Kong even noted that 70% of the members from the Oversight Board have lived in more than one country and 90% speak more than one language.
Thomas Hughes is the first-named director of the oversight board. He was the former Executive Director of Article 19, an international organization that defends freedom of expression and information. Hughes has also played significant roles in the European Commission, Organization for Security Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the United Nation.
Below are the 20 members of the Oversight Board.
- Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei, Human Rights Lawyer from Ghana, South Africa
- Alan Rusbridger, Journalist from the United Kingdom
- András Sajó, Legal Scholar from Hungary
- Catalina Botero Marino, Dean of Law Faculty at Universidad de Los Andes in Colombia
- Emi Palmor, Former Director-General of Israeli Ministry of Justice
- Endy Bayuni, Journalist from Indonesia
- Evelyn Aswad, University of Oklahoma College of Law Professor in the United States
- Helle Thorning-Schmidt, former Prime Minister of Denmark, co-chair the Oversight Board with Thomas Hughes. She also served as Chief Executive of Save the Children. She remained involved in geopolitics as a member of the Atlantic Council International Advisory Board, Berggruen 21st Century Council, European Council for Foreign Relations, and the US Foreign Relations Council.
- Jamal Greene, Columbia Law School Professor from the United States
- John Samples, Vice President of the Cato Institute in the United States
- Julie Owono, Lawyer, and Executive Director of Internet Sans Frontières in Cameroon, France
- Katherine Chen, Public Relations and Statistics Professor at the National Chengchi University in Taiwan
- Maina Kiai, Lawyer, and Human Rights Activist from Kenya
- Michael McConnell, Stanford Law School Professor in the United States
- Nicolas Suzor, Queensland University of Technology Law Professor in Australia
- Nighat Dad, Lawyer, and Internet Activist from Pakistan
- Ronaldo Lemos, Lawyer, and Academic from Brazil
- Sudhir Krishnaswamy, Vice-Chancellor of the National Law School of India University
- Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America in the United States
- Tawakkol Karman, Journalist, and Human Rights Activist from Yemen
Facebook allotted an initial fund of $130 million to cover the Oversight Board’s operational costs. This will allow the board to operate for at least 6 years. Each member of the board will serve a 3-year term, so it will be equivalent to terms. Moving forward, the board will submit a yearly budget for approval to Facebook, Inc’s trust.
HOW DOES THE OVERSIGHT BOARD MAKE DECISIONS?
The Oversight Board, being an independent body, works separately from Facebook. They will review disputed content that Facebook refers to outside of the platform’s scope.
First off, Facebook users should appeal to Facebook for the posting of the removed content or unpublished content. After going to the content appeal process on Facebook, the user will receive a Reference ID for the rejected content. The second step is the referral process to the Oversight Board. A Facebook user bearing a Reference ID of a rejected content can file an appeal to the Oversight Board. The appeal must be submitted within 15 days after the rejection was issued.
Alternatively, Facebook can also refer cases for content moderation to the Oversight Board. It can also request a policy opinion from the Oversight Board as needed. Being a team of experts, the Oversight Board is equipped with in-depth knowledge of international human rights laws and norms. As such, they can provide valuable policy inputs to Facebook and Instagram.
Based on their criteria, the Oversight Board has the sole discretion of whether to accept or reject the appeal. Any eligible appeals will be assigned to a 5-member panel which will make the decision on or before 90 days. A representative from the region where the appeal comes from will be included in the 5-member panel. There are times when Facebook may request the Oversight Board to expedite the review for exceptional circumstances.
The Oversight Board’s decision is final and executory by Facebook and Instagram. All decisions will be made public for transparency.