Meet Facebook’s New Globalist Gestapo for Wrong Think
On May 6, 2020, Facebook rolled out the first 20 members of its Oversight Board.
This board is an independent body that can overturn the company’s own content moderation actions.
The oversight board will review appeals from Facebook and Instagram users and questions from Facebook itself. It did admit, however, that it will select a few content moderation cases to review because of the large volume of cases.
The board is expected to receive cases through a content management system that is connected to Facebook’s own platforms. They will then proceed to talk about the case as a group before making a final decision on whether the content should stay on or be deleted from the platform.
Back in November 2018, Facebook announced it was creating the independent board following a report published in The New York Times that covered how the company controversially handled the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election and other social network malfeasances.
This group is comprised of a diverse array of “lawyers, journalists, human rights advocates and other academics” according to CNBC.
The CNBC report added that “Between them, they are said to have expertise in areas such as digital rights, religious freedom, conflicts between rights, content moderation, internet censorship and civil rights.”
Some of the members include Alan Rusbridger, former editor in chief of The Guardian newspaper, and Andras Sajo, a former judge and VP of the European Court of Human Rights.
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a former Prime Minister of Denmark, is one of the board’s four co-chairs. “Up until now some of the most difficult decisions about content have been made by Facebook and you could say Mark Zuckerberg,” she said during a conference call with the press on May 6. “Facebook has decided to change that.”
The board will start hearing cases in the upcoming months. It will eventually feature about 40 members, which Facebook will help select.
“It’s one thing to complain about content moderation and challenges involved, it’s another thing to actually do something about it,” declared Jamal Greene, co-chair of the board. “These problems of content moderation really have been with us since the dawn of social media, and this really is a novel approach.”
The move could help Facebook stave off accusations of it being biased as it removes content it believes violates community guidelines. Several elected officials and conservative speakers have asserted that Facebook censors conservatives on the platform.
“It is our ambition and goal that Facebook not decide elections, not be a force for one point of view over another, but the same rules will apply to people of left, right and center,” Michael McConnell, a co-chair of the board, said to reporters on May 6.
Facebook vowed to give the board $130 million in funding in December 2019, with the money slated to go towards handling operational costs for at least six years.
The board claimed it will publish transparency reports annually and review what Facebook has done with its recommendations.
“It will be very embarrassing to Facebook if they don’t live up to their end of this,” Thorning-Schmidt, a co-chair, stated.
Brent Harris, Facebook’s director of global affairs, stated Facebook will enact the board’s decisions “unless they violate the law.”
CNBC provided a list of the board members:
- Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei, human rights advocate at the Open Society Initiative for West Africa
- Evelyn Aswad, University of Oklahoma College of Law professor who formerly served as a senior U.S. State Department lawyer
- Endy Bayuni, journalist who twice served as the editor-in-chief of the Jakarta Post
- Catalina Botero-Marino, Facebook Oversight Board co-chair, dean of the Universidad de los Andes Faculty of Law
- Katherine Chen, communications scholar at the National Chengchi University and former national communications regulator in Taiwan
- Nighat Dad, digital rights advocate who received the Human Rights Tulip Award
- Jamal Greene, Facebook Oversight Board co-chair, Columbia Law professor
- Pamela Karlan, Stanford Law professor and United States Supreme Court advocate
- Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Prize laureate named as one of “History’s Most Rebellious Women” by Time
- Maina Kiai, director of Human Rights Watch’s Global Alliances and Partnerships program
- Sudhir Krishnaswamy, vice chancellor of the National Law School of India University
- Ronaldo Lemos, technology, intellectual property and media lawyer who teaches law at Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro
- Michael McConnell, Facebook Oversight Board co-chair, Stanford Law professor who previously served as a federal circuit judge
- Julie Owono, digital rights and anti-censorship advocate who leads Internet Sans Frontieres
- Emi Palmor, former director general of the Israeli Ministry of Justice
- Alan Rusbridger, former editor-in-chief of The Guardian
- Andras Sajo, former judge and vice president of the European Court of Human Rights
- John Samples, helps lead a libertarian think tank and writes extensively on social media and speech regulation
- Nicolas Suzor, Queensland University of Technology Law School professor
- Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Facebook Oversight Board co-chair, former Prime Minister of Denmark
The jury is out on whether this board will do anything to curb social media censorship coming from Facebook.
Unless, there are significant reforms to the Communication Decency Act and government privileges social media platforms receive, Facebook will continue censoring.