Facebook's controversial content to be reviewed by independent 'Supreme Court'

  • Facebook is creating an independent “supreme court” made up of an 11 to 40-person Oversight Board which will review the social network’s content.

    Facebook users that are unhappy with the way their posts have been treated on the platform or wish to flag controversial content, will be able to take their case to the board after they have "exhausted" Facebook's internal appeals process.

    Examples of potential cases may include someone disagreeing with Facebook’s refusal to take down content containing nudity, hate speech, or bullying.

    The social network’s creator Mark Zuckerberg stated that “The board’s decision(s) will be binding, even if I or anyone at Facebook disagrees with it.”

    It is uncertain when this board will come into action; however Facebook states that when it does it will implement its decisions immediately, unless doing so could violate the law, and as long as it is "technically and operationally feasible" to do so.

    It is speculated that the oversight board members will be powerful yet inevitably highly scrutinised public figures.

    The social media giant told journalists in a conference call that it was looking for people accustomed to making decisions "under a set of standards or policies", saying they could include former lawyers, judges and "maybe even former journalists".

    "As an independent organisation, we hope it gives people confidence that their views will be heard, and that Facebook doesn't have the ultimate power over their expression."

    Therefore it is apparent that Facebook itself will choose initial board members, and then work with these members to select the rest of the board. Each member will then serve a three-year term, being allowed to serve no more than three terms.

    A spokesperson for Facebook said the board would annually take on approximately a dozen of the “most important” cases which “are of greatest public benefit” and the board will also have "the discretion to choose which requests it will review and decide upon".

    Tech experts and online critics are debating whether this “supreme court” will be fully independent. This comes after Google set up a similar ethics board to oversee their AI efforts, which collapsed within a fortnight following public outrage over its formation.

    It was due to this debacle that Facebook “want to be clear they are not politically cherry picking experts," suggested Rachel Coldicutt, CEO of responsible technology think tank Doteveryone.

    She added: "But there is a danger that this will just be window dressing; for it to be meaningful, it needs to be representative of Facebook's users, not just the great and good, and given powers of veto."

    Earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg said the internet needs a "more active role for governments and regulators" in order to counter broader threats to society, while balancing freedom of expression. The social network has repeatedly claims it welcomes regulation.

    This latest action may have been prompted by the news last month when the UK government revealed that tech firms such as Facebook and YouTube will be set to face fines from Ofcom for showing potentially harmful videos.


    Source: Sky News, Tech Crunch

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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