Facebook Building an 'Independent' Oversight Board to Limit Censorship

Does Facebook need its own “Supreme Court” to act as the ultimate arbiter of its censorship decisions? Would such a body help? We’re getting closer to finding out. Facebook is currently putting together a third party, independent “Content Oversight Board” whose job will be to regulate and evaluate the company’s content decisions, according to Bloomberg.

The idea for the board originated with Harvard professor Noah Feldman who is also a columnist for Bloomberg View. He first pitched the idea to Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg in January 2018. According to Bloomberg, “Feldman’s pitch outlined the need for an independent, transparent committee to help regulate the company’s content decisions.” Since then, “Facebook received more than 1,200 proposals from outside individuals and organizations with recommendations on what the company should build.”

Essentially, the board would act like a Supreme Court judging Facebook’s Executive content decisions -- a roll that may be fraught with challenges. According to Bloomberg, “The board’s independence will most certainly be an issue.” 

The company is also concerned the board will not be able to keep up with the number and pace of content decisions.

Bloomberg said “it’s unrealistic to expect the board’s decisions will happen with the speed necessary to police the internet.” In order for the board to be effective, it will have to serve like an appeals court, evaluating decisions that have already been made. 

They also said “about the only thing that has been decided is that the board should be independent.”

Music to conservative ears, but there’s no real plan to make sure of independence yet. Facebook’s tentative plan calls for a 40-member board appointed by Facebook, but it’s uncertain how many content cases they will review.  The company hopes that the cases will be reviewed by three to five of the members and then voted on. Those verdicts will be final.

 

Facebook has a long history of censorship as well. According to Bloomberg, “For years, conservative politicians and media personalities have accused the company of bias against conservative ideas and opinions.” The board will also help limit Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s power over content regulation. Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes told Bloomberg that at times Zuckerberg’s power is “‘unprecedented and un-American.’” Zuckerberg has promised that the board’s appointees will be, “free of influence by Facebook and its leaders.” 

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