Facebook’s long-delayed oversight board, which will have power to overrule Mark Zuckerberg on what content to censor, will launch next month ahead of the US presidential election.
The independent body, which has been dubbed Facebook’s “Supreme Court,” includes a former prime minister, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a number of constitutional law experts among its 20 members. It will initially have the power to review decisions to take down posts from Facebook and Instagram, as well as to recommend policy changes.
The board was created in the wake of withering criticism of Facebook’s high-profile moderation issues. The social network, for example, got blasted for removing a famous Vietnam War-era photo of a naked girl fleeing a napalm attack after classifying it as child pornography. It has also taken heat for failing to combat hate speech in Myanmar against the Rohingya and other Muslims.
Alan Rusbridger, former editor-in-chief of Britain’s Guardian newspaper and a member of the board, told Reuters Thursday that he did not know whether the board would hear cases related to November’s election, but said that cases involving President Trump were not among those that the board had looked at for trial runs.
“We haven’t done a Trump case,” he said. “We have done a nudity case, we’ve done a blasphemy case.”
Facebook faced employee backlash this summer over its decision to not take down or flag posts from Trump that contained misleading claims about mail-in voting as well as inflammatory language during the George Floyd protests.
One post called demonstrators “thugs” and warned that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
At the time, Zuckerberg said that he was “pretty thorough” when reviewing Facebook’s policies regarding the president’s posts. The 36-year-old CEO said that the company’s policies on free speech “show that the right action where we are right now is to leave this up.”
Since the first 20 members of the board were announced in May, they have had virtual meetings to discuss issues such as how to select cases and deal with minority opinions, Rusbridger said.
Potential cases will come to the board from users who have exhausted the appeals process, or be sent over from Facebook. Deciding and implementing rulings can take up to 90 days, although Facebook can ask for them to be expedited within 30 days, including in cases with “urgent real-world consequences.”
The board, which will grow to about 40 members and which Facebook has pledged $130 million to fund for at least six years, will make public, binding decisions on controversial cases where users have exhausted Facebook’s usual appeals process.
With Post wires