Facebook’s Oversight Board Begins Hearing Cases, Adding a New Element to Content Decisions

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

In January 2019, Facebook has announced its strategies for a new Content Oversight Board, an independent, external expert group that would be collected to review content decisions appeals made by moderators of Facebook.

The next Oversight Board has been the go-to referral point of Facebook when discussing the responses of different controversial cases. Do you think Facebook should have added alerts to comments that were posted by Trump regarding the #BlackLivesMatter protests? The Oversight Board will grant extra guidance for these cases. Should Facebook take actions on the anti-science or anti-vax posts? The Oversight Board may help.

It has been indicated as a major element in developing enforcement decisions of Facebook and making Facebook a safer and a better place. Currently, it is finally here, following a year and half of improvement, Facebook has announced today that its Content Oversight Board will start hearing its first cases now.

According to Facebook:

“Starting today, if your content is removed from Facebook or Instagram and you have exhausted your appeals with Facebook, you’ll be able to appeal your case to the Oversight Board, a global body of experts separate from Facebook that will make independent and binding decisions on the cases they choose to hear.”

It’s worth stating that the Oversight Board is not created to change the policy approach of Facebook, at least not particularly. The Board is created to hear content cases individually, with its decisions on every policy revision, yet it has not beholden to update the guidelines based on the findings of the Oversight Board.

The Oversight Board is addressing four major areas in policy and content assessment:

oversight case timeline
Facebook's Oversight Board Begins Hearing Cases, Adding a New Element to Content Decisions 4

The Board basically provides users of Facebook another avenue for appeal, when they think Facebook has made a wrong call, decreasing the onus on Facebook’s moderation teams.

According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg:

“Ultimately I don’t believe private companies like ours should be making so many important decisions about speech on our own. That’s why we’re now giving people a way to appeal our content decisions by establishing the independent Oversight Board. If someone disagrees with a decision we’ve made, they can appeal to us first, and soon they will be able to further appeal to this independent board. The board’s decision will be binding, even if I or anyone at Facebook disagrees with it.”

Also, it’s important to say that the variety between isolated cases and the overall policies of Facebook. The Oversight Board will just force Facebook to do revisions on its action on a case-by-case basis. As you can see in the chart above, it will be tasked with giving advice on expanded policy decisions. However, Facebook will not have to apply those recommendations.

However, that may be enough in a lot of cases, as with the argumentative post of Donald Trump which sparked the boycott of Facebook by the advertisers in July.

Donald Trump's Facebook Post
Facebook's Oversight Board Begins Hearing Cases, Adding a New Element to Content Decisions 5

Civil rights groups were angry with the comment and the historical indication it makes, which has to lead them to call on advertisers to stop their ad spend on Facebook in July to deliver a message to the company. These groups are still calling Facebook to make updates its policies, and have, however, far been frustrated with the response of the company.

The Oversight Board may step in a case like this now, and also CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, highly believes that comments from political leaders are that they have to be suspended from the rules of the platform, as people have to be able to know what these officials should say, and also, approve or disapprove their votes. The Board may still make a call that may lead to more response.

Screen Shot 2020 10 22 at 9.08.27 PM
Facebook's Oversight Board Begins Hearing Cases, Adding a New Element to Content Decisions 6

It’s impossible to say how much difference it’s going to make. Probably the Oversight Board -if we’re looking on balance at these decisions- will strongly agree with the logic of Facebook. However, probably, the group may strengthen the enforcement action of Facebook, which may lead to a lot of tighter rules on controversial speech.

We are going to wait to see, yet after a long postponement, and the concerns that it would not be up ahead of the US elections, the Oversight Board is currently in operation, adding a totally new element to the content decisions of Facebook.