ISLAMABAD: Facebook will be setting up an independent content oversight board to review the Facebook’s content decisions.
The proposed board will comprise of independent experts from around the world and “review Facebook’s most challenging content decisions – focusing on important and disputed cases.”
The idea of oversight board was first shared by the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in November last year. More information surfaced on January 28 after the company released a draft charter outlining how the board might function.
While sharing the details about the board, Facebook Vice President Nick Clegg said in a blog post: “After initial consultation and deliberation, we’ve proposed a basic scope and structure that’s outlined in this draft charter.”
However, nothing is final and key decisions have to be taken on a range of issues including the “the number of members, length of terms and how cases are selected” according to Nick.
Facebook hopes to further refine the scope of the proposed oversight board in consultation with experts over the next six months. As the first step, the company will be hosting workshops in different countries. As Nick noted: “We’ll host these workshops in Singapore, Delhi, Nairobi, Berlin, New York, Mexico City and many more cities — soliciting feedback on how best to design a board that upholds our principles and brings independent judgment to hard cases.”
Acknowledging the fact that the workshops might not allow the company to hear every perspective, Nick assured that a mechanism would be evolved to allow more experts to share their thoughts. “We’ll be announcing more about how proposals can be submitted in the coming weeks.”
The scope of Facebook’s Content Oversight Board:
Digital Rights Monitor has reviewed the initial ideas floated around the functioning of the board in the charter and identified the following key highlights:
- The board will have 40 experts with experience in content, privacy, free expression, human rights, journalism, civil rights, safety and other relevant disciplines.
- No current/former employee of Facebook or a government official can become a member of the oversight board.
- The first cohort of members can be selected either by Facebook or an independent committee commissioned by Facebook. If Facebook selects the first cohort, the next batches could be selected by the board.
- Facebook will not have the power to remove any board member unless he/she violates the terms of their appointment.
- Members will serve part-time, for a fixed term of three years. Their terms will be automatically renewable once.
- The content oversight board will review Facebook’s content decisions – focusing on important and disputed cases. It will have the power to reverse Facebook’s decisions about whether to allow or remove certain posts from Facebook.
- The board will not decide cases where reversing Facebook’s decision would violate the law. Facebook can incorporate the board’s decisions in the policy development process. In addition, Facebook may request policy guidance from the board.
- The board will share its decisions transparently, publicly and give reasons for them.
- Mindful of the fact that all the content related queries will be impossible to handle by the board, Facebook could either set up a petition mechanism to filter requests for board. Facebook could also refer “difficult” cases to board. Ideally, both Facebook and those who do not agree with Facebook’s content decisions should be able to reach out to the board.
- A full board could be convened to decide the cases or members could break into panels.
- While making decisions, the board could call upon experts to ensure that it has all the supplementary, linguistic, cultural and sociopolitical expertise.
- Facebook will publish a final charter that will serve as the basis for board governance.
Talal Raza is a Program Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. He has worked with renowned media organizations and NGOs including Geo News, The Nation, United States Institute of Peace and Privacy International.