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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Facebook Establishes Oversight Board to Advise on User Activity

If you hadn't heard, there was an interesting development out of Facebook last week when the company announced the establishment of an "Oversight Board" that would have authority to make final decisions about certain user posts that Facebook removes, among other issues. The Board will be governed by a charter and by-laws that would establish the structure of the Board and define the scope of its powers.

According to Facebook, one of the purposes of establishing the board is to address some of the more significant and difficult cases of user activity on the platform. Facebook has identified guidelines to prioritize these cases that focus on indicators on user activity that Facebook considers to have "significance" or "difficulty," which Facebook has defined as follows:
  • Significance: Significant means that the content involves real-world impact. The content in question should involve issues that are severe, large-scale and important for public discourse. Factors include:
    • Severity. The content threatens someone else’s voice, safety, privacy, or dignity.
    • Scale. The content reaches or affects a large number of people and/or illustrates a larger trend or issue on Facebook.
    • Public Discourse. The content spurs significant public debate and/or important political and social discourse.
  • Difficulty: The decision on the content raises questions about current policy or its enforcement. Strong arguments could be made for either removing or leaving up the content. Factors include:
    • Disputed. There is disagreement about Facebook’s decision on the content and/or the underlying policy or policies.
    • Uncertain. There is uncertainty about the correct decision according to Facebook’s policy.
    • Competing. There is a tension between equally important values. A reasonable person could imagine both arguments to remove the content or keep it up, and a decision either way necessitates a trade-off between values.
You can read more about Facebook's new initiative on its website here. It will be interesting to follow the implementation and see how this might impact government use of social media which, of course, is subject to a completely different legal landscape - the First Amendment.


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