Facebook to create ‘Supreme Court’ where users can contest decisions


While the Oversight Board detailed is still in its early stages, its ultimate test will be its ability to navigate and interpret Facebook’s thicket of rules to reach decisions in real time; while revealing more about how Facebook actually comes to its conclusions about content in the first place. That means figuring out the ever-elusive line between free expression and harmful speech and serving as a court of sorts for a global network that has different needs and varying visions for what the web should look like.

Facebook has long maintained detailed policies to combat and remove harmful speech, including attacks on the basis of race or religion, terrorist propaganda and disinformation. But the company often has struggled to implement and enforce such rules uniformly, resulting at times in the viral spread of harmful content, or accusations that its executives and engineers are biased.

To help better navigate these and other political pressures globally, Zuckerberg in November first sketched out his vision for an “independent body” that would serve as a check on the human reviewers and artificial intelligence tools that vet the posts uploaded by its community of 2.2 billion users.

The charter released this week outlines new oversight at Facebook meant to address allegations of unfairness, on a global scale. The company aims to have a board of “likely” 40 members, representing different regions of the world, each serving for a three-year term. Facebook said it intends to select a few members to start. Those members will then choose the remaining members, all of whom will be overseen by an independent trust Facebook plans to establish to handle logistical matters such as the budget.

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The roster of members has not yet been announced.

Users who disagree with Facebook’s content decisions can appeal to the company, and if they still don’t like the resolution, may then appeal to the board. Facebook has committed that board decisions are binding and will be implemented quickly. The company said it’ll also send cases to the board for automatic, expedited review if there’s a potential for “urgent real world consequences”. It expects to take its first cases from users in 2020.

Facebook’s new review board will have the ability to recommend broader changes even beyond the content it has been asked to study, such as additional content takedowns or proposing new business practices. It’ll be up to the social networking company to decide if and how it will implement them; though Facebook pledged to publish its detailed reasoning about the decision it makes.

“This charter brings us another step closer to establishing the board, but there is a lot of work still ahead,” Zuckerberg said. “We expect the board will only hear a small number of cases at first, but over time we hope it will expand its scope and potentially include more companies across the industry as well.”

The stakes grew after the deadly massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand, where some users uploaded videos of the attacks in ways that evaded tech companies’ censors. In the US, users faulted Facebook earlier this year for refusing to take down a manipulated video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that made it appear she was drunk.

Globally, regulators have issued an ultimatum to Facebook, Google and Twitter, threatening to hold the companies directly liable for the decisions they make and the content they allow online unless they improve their platforms. At the same time, though, the companies have also faced immense criticism for flagging and removing content they should not have.

Washington Post

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