Facebook's Independent Oversight Board Makes First Set of Decisions

Kimberly Redmond  |

Image source: Facebook Oversight Board

In its first set of decisions, Facebook’s oversight board directed the social media company to restore several posts taken down for breaking its rules on hate speech, COVID-19 misinformation and nudity.

On Thursday, the independent board overruled Facebook in four of the five cases and gave the company seven days to put the posts back online.

The verdicts – which Facebook will use as precedents to decide on similar appeals – included decisions to restore a post that falsely claimed a cure for coronavirus exists, a post that allegedly quoted a German Nazi leader, a post that pejoratively implied Muslims were inferior and a breast cancer awareness post that depicted female nipples.

The board upheld just one of Facebook's decisions, which involved the removal of a Russian-language post that used an ethnic slur against Azerbaijanis.

“None of these cases had any easy answers and deliberations revealed the enormous complexity of the issues involved,” the board wrote.

The independent board was first proposed by CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2018, with these first cases being accepted in October 2020. The board is part of a larger effort at Facebook to increase transparency of its content moderation policies.  

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Its 20 members, which include legal experts, human rights advocates and journalists, hope to “provide a critical independent check on how the company moderates content.”

Since the board started accepting cases, more than 150,000 specific instances of removed posts have been appealed by users. The board said it will rule on a limited number of cases considered more controversial among the submissions.

According to Facebook’s vice president of content policy Monika Bickert, the company will adhere with Thursday’s rulings and has already restored content in the four cases in which the board overruled the company's decision to remove the posts.

The board also issued several recommendations on how the company can better communicate and enforce key policies, including telling users the specific rule they have violated and better defining rules on issues such as health misinformation and dangerous groups.

Facebook has 30 days to respond to those recommendations, the board said.

Bickert said the social media company “will take to heart” the “important suggestions” made by the oversight board. She added, “Their recommendations will have a lasting impact on how we structure our policies.”

Thursday’s rulings did not include a verdict on Facebook’s decision to suspend former president Donald Trump’s account following his incitement of the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, which the social media company referred to the board last week.

According to the board, Trump’s case will be opened to public comments Friday, and a ruling will be made within 90 days.

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Source: Equities News

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