The Real Facebook Oversight Board’ launches. Why an external team is building it?

A picture from The Real Facebook Oversight Board live streamed meeting on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A group of academicians, researchers, and civil right leaders launched on Wednesday ‘The Real Facebook Oversight Board’ to discuss Facebook’s role in the upcoming U.S. election.

The group includes Facebook’s former head of election security, and early investor at the social network, and leaders of #StopHateForProfirt campaign.

What happened to Facebook’s oversight board?

To address issues related to deciding whether a post has to be taken down or not, Facebook proposed to set up an Oversight Board that will rule on content moderation appeals.

Facebook launched the board last November, and named its members in May 2020. The company is said to have invested $130 million to set up the board.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg had said in November that such a board would reduce the pressure of decision-making within Facebook, and promote accountability.

The board is said to take up to three months to make a decision, and will issue judgements only related to removed content.

People whose posts have been removed in error can appeal to the board, and it will decide whether to uphold the original decision or reverse it.

But this board is yet to start hearing appeals. That means, it is unlikely to hear any appeals related to this year’s U.S. Presidential election on November 3.

Enter, the ‘Real Facebook Oversight Board’

Critics argue that an oversight board is needed around this time of election as a lot of misinformation and propaganda find their way into social media via political campaigns.

Due to this delay, a group of critics are forming a board to assess content moderation practices at Facebook during election.

This 25-member external board includes Shoshana Zuboff, author of Surveillance Capitalism; Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP; Yael Eisenstat, former head of election integrity at Facebook; and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

“The Real Facebook Oversight Board has been formed as an emergency response to address the immediate risk to U.S. democracy,” the ‘Real’ board said on Citizen’s page, a non-profit that holds big tech accountable.

“Academics and experts have joined forces with civil rights leaders to form a ‘Brains Trust’ to respond to the critical threats posed by Facebook’s unchecked power.”

It added that the board will continue to demand Zuckerberg take responsibility for Facebook’s actions. And members will issue clear, achievable demands, and ask Facebook to implement them. They will hold live streaming debates, expert interviews and victim testimonials.

The ‘Real Oversight Board’ mentioned that it respects Facebook’s board, but feared that an after-the-fact review of content with 90 days turnaround will do nothing to prevent the subversion of this election.

No one on the external board is compensated for their work. It is organised by Citizens, and has received a start-up grant from Luminate, a global philanthropic organisation.

What does the activist board demand?

Facebook has repeatedly faced criticism over how it implements its own rules. In June, Facebook was in the news for not taking down a post by U.S. President Donald Trump.

To address such issues, and to hold Facebook accountable, the activist-led board has outlined three demands from Facebook.

It is asking Facebook to include a policy against inciting violence, ban ads that mention presidential election results before the official announcement, and label posts about the election results as untrue and premature before the result.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2021 6:54:33 PM |

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