Facebook’s Oversight Board: What It Means For Your Content
Updated on: 6 January 2021
As the Facebook community grew larger and larger, comprising more than 2 billion users worldwide, there is an urgent need for Facebook to make better decisions related to speech and online safety.
With the establishment of the Oversight Board, it was tasked to help Facebook tackle challenging questions that surround the freedom of expression online. This included knowing what to take down, what to leave up, and why.
Who are the Oversight Board
Introduced in May 2020, the board is meant to serve as an independent check on Facebook’s content governance and enforcement. It is currently made up of a group of 20 academics, journalists, and international policy experts, shortlisted from all around the world to ensure a global perspective.
The board will eventually have about 40 members, representing a diverse set of disciplines and backgrounds to exercise independent judgment over challenging and significant content decisions. Potential members are selected for their experience in digital content and governance, including free expression, privacy, and civic discourse, amongst other criteria.
With members reflecting a wide range of views and experiences, the board’s long-term success depends on its varying perspectives and expertise to make final and binding decisions on what content should Facebook allow or remove based on freedom of expression and human rights. And seeing how large Facebook’s user community is, there is need for geographical and linguistic diversity when it comes to content moderation.
How will it work
There is already a team in place with 15,000 content reviewers who assess more than 2 million pieces of content daily in over 50 languages. With that said, the board will focus on the toughest cases that carry substantial real-world impact. This refers to content that ignites major public debate, or has an effect on a large number of people, among other consequential cases.
The board will decide which case it reviews, ranging from posts, photos, videos and comments that Facebook has decided to remove related to community guidelines and issues like nudity, violence or hate speech. The cases can be referred by a user who has exhausted other moderation appeals processes, or by Facebook itself for cases that may be “difficult and significant”. Without any specifics on the timeline, the review will expand to include ads, groups, profiles and pages in the future.
Decisions made by the board to uphold or reverse Facebook’s content decisions will be binding. This means Facebook is required to implement them, unless it could be violating the law. The board can also recommend changes to Facebook’s Community Standards and Values.
What is the process
As a user, if you disagree with the final decision by Facebook’s content decision, you have the option to appeal to the board. Submitted cases will be evaluated and the board will determine which eligible cases to review in depth. Not all cases will be taken up by the board as cases will be prioritised based on a set of overarching criteria that reflect critical importance to public discourse and global relevancy.
Before you submit an appeal to the board, there is a set of conditions that need to be fulfilled:
• The appeal must come from an active account holder where the content was posted
• The appeal must already be submitted to Facebook for review and received a final decision
• Content decisions must be eligible for appeal while abiding to country-specific laws
• Submission of appeals must be done within 15 days after Facebook’s final content decision
Each case will be reviewed by a panel of five members, who will deliberate and issue a draft decision. Once the entire board has finalised the draft decision, a written statement will be publicly published on the Oversight Board’s website regarding its decision, all within a 90-day period. This can also include a policy recommendation for Facebook, in which the company will respond publicly as part of a transparent process.
What does it mean for users
With the independent Oversight Board, people can appeal Facebook’s content decisions and have their appeal case heard, especially if it has the potential to set precedence and direction for content policy at Facebook. At the same time, the board will continue to protect freedom of expression and other human right matters, ensuring a safe platform for a vast number of users across the globe.
With its impact on Facebook’s content policy, this also means individuals and businesses will have to keep themselves up-to-date on what they post online – anything from photos and videos to ad posts – complies and is well within their right of expression. For businesses, content ads are also reviewed typically within 24 hours to ensure they meet Facebook’s Advertising Policies.
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