Will Facebook’s new oversight board be the platform to ensure free speech or a Big Tech kangaroo court?
The site’s in-house newsroom posted a developer blog on Jan. 28 which announced the platform’s upcoming oversight board. While its actual members will be chosen and announced “[i]n the coming months,” Facebook staff did reveal that “the first Director of Oversight Board Administration will be Thomas Hughes.” Hughes was described as the “former Executive Director for Article 19, an international non-governmental organization with a focus on freedom of expression and digital rights” who will “lead the board’s administrative staff.”
According to The Verge, Hughes claimed the board will ensure that “the rights of people are respected.” He also claimed that it will ensure “accountability and transparency in the application of the community standards.”
Can conservatives depend on Hughes to defend their personal liberties, or is he merely the token free speech advocate to help protect Facebook from being regulated? Facebook, like other Silicon Valley Big Tech companies, has an “intolerant” liberal culture, even according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself. Can such an openly “intolerant” company be trusted to hire objective members to be on its oversight board?
Facebook Director of Governance and Global Affairs Brent Harris claimed that there will be a diverse range of members overseeing content on Facebook and Instagram. “Almost any person on the planet may not like one or two people who are on the board, and we think that’s a feature,” he commented to reporters. “When we announce, you’re going to see that this isn’t just a board that looks like Silicon Valley or looks like Facebook.”
While it may seem good on the surface to have diversity -- having multiple cultures and nations represented -- many nations have wildly differing standards on freedom of speech and expression. But Facebook, as an American company, serves human dignity far better by having an U.S. Constitution-centric approach to freedom of speech, rather than one that would hold free speaking western nations and foreign authoritarian regimes as equals.
In 2019, tech companies such as Blizzard have been brought to shame by caving to the demands of China and censoring their own users amid rebellion in Hong Kong.
The moderation decisions made by the board will cover a range of controversial topics in America and around the world. The Verge noted the following in its coverage:
“There are also provisions to ensure local representation, an issue Facebook has struggled with when adjudicating ethnic conflicts in countries like Myanmar and Sri Lanka. According to the bylaws, each case will be decided by a panel consisting of four randomly selected board members and one from the region that’s primarily affected.”
This program was put in place to ensure the board has “cultural awareness to nuanced local conflicts,” noted The Verge.
Let’s just see how culturally aware Silicon Valley-types can be to their own conservative, Christian neighbors.