Oversight Board open to hear appeals on Facebook, Instagram content removal

Venkatesh Ganesh Mumbai October 23 | Updated on October 23, 2020 Published on October 23, 2020

The indepednent, global body aims to review and resolve cases with real-world cosequences within 90 days

Facebook and Instagram users can now submit appeals on content removal to the ‘Oversight Board’ for an independent review. through which the social media giant is hoping to moderate content and reduce instances of misinformation.

Facebook said that the Oversight Board will be an independent, global body that will make decisions on whether specific content should be allowed or removed from Facebook and Instagram. The Oversight Board will consist of a first set of 20 members, rising to 40 over time, with expertise in several key areas including freedom of expression, digital rights, religious freedom, conflicts between rights, content moderation, digital copyright, online safety, internet censorship, platform transparency and civil rights.

“The Board’s decisions on cases are binding and must be implemented by Facebook. Board members are drawn from around the world with backgrounds in free expression, digital rights, online safety and other related fields,” it said.

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Efficient review

The Board is operational with immediate effect and users can submit an eligible case for review through the Oversight Board website, once they have exhausted their content appeals with Facebook. All cases will see some resolution within 90 days of being brought to the Board’s attention.

Brent Harris, Director of Governance and Global Affairs, Facebook, in a call said that the Board is expecting a deluge of cases and will act as quickly as possible. “The review may take days for translation and context,” he added.

Further, Facebook can also refer cases to the Board on an ongoing basis, including in emergency circumstances under the expedited review procedure.

Over the following months, people will also have the opportunity to appeal to the Board on content they want Facebook to remove. “Content that could lead to urgent, real-world consequences will be reviewed as quickly as possible,” said Jamal Greene, Co-Chair of the Oversight Board.

“The Board provides a critical independent check on Facebook’s approach to moderating content on the most significant issues, but doesn’t remove the responsibility of Facebook to act first and to act fast in emergencies.”

Case selection

So, how much influence do individual Board members have over which cases will be heard and the binding decision? Board members will take turns rotating on a Case Selection Committee, which will evaluate and select cases by a majority vote of the Committee. After being selected, cases will then be assigned to a five-member panel and will always include at least one member from the region implicated in the content and a mix of gender representation, stated Harris.

The Oversight Board clarified that no single Board member will make decisions on the cases to be chosen and the case decision, alone.

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‘Widest possible value’

These developments come as the US is set to go to elections in 12 days, and Facebook is under intense pressure to show that it is dealing with instances of hate speech and misinformation across the world. Catalina Botero-Marino, Co-Chair of the Oversight Board, said that while it won’t be able to hear every appeal, “we want our decisions to have the widest possible value, and will be prioritising cases that have the potential to impact many users around the world, are of critical importance to public discourse, and raise questions about Facebook’s policies.”

Each case will have a public comment period to allow third parties to share their insights with the Board. Case descriptions will be posted on the Board website with a request for public comment before the Board begins deliberations. These descriptions will not include any information which could potentially identify the users involved in a case. “Human rights and freedom of expression will be at the core of every decision we make,” said Botero-Marino.

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Published on October 23, 2020
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