A Facebook oversight board to soon decide what material belongs on the platform

The oversight board's rulings will be binding in individual cases, but broader policy findings will be advisory.


A new quasi-independent oversight board will soon make decisions on some of the most difficult questions on what material belongs on Facebook’s platform in a “very public way,” an executive for the social-media company said Friday.

The board will consider a small number of cases where all appeals of Facebook decisions have been exhausted, the company’s director of governance and strategic initiatives, Andy Pergam, said in speech at the University of Utah.

The board’s decisions and the company’s responses will be public, he said.

Its rulings will be binding in individual cases, but broader policy findings will be advisory.

“They’ll do all this in a very public way. This is the mechanism by which the board will have lasting policy influence over a company like Facebook,” he said.

A Facebook oversight board to soon decide what material belongs on the platform

Andy Pergam talks at the University of Utah. Image: AP

Board members who are experts in a range of disciplines from around the world will be named December and begin hearing cases in early 2020.

The board will begin by weighing users’ posts and is expected to take on ads later.

(Also read: 'Overly-dramatic': Mark Zuckerberg dismisses Facebook moderators' grievances against appalling work conditions)

The ads have recently come under scrutiny after Facebook refused demands to remove President Donald Trump campaign ads that make false claims.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the refusal to take down content it considers newsworthy on Thursday, saying he stands for free expression. His speech at Georgetown University was maligned by critics who said the company has failed to curb the spread of disinformation.

(Also read: Facebook to face $35 billion class-action lawsuit over misuse of facial recognition data)

Zuckerberg announced plans to establish the oversight board last year during a firestorm over an inability to quickly and effectively misinformation as well as hate speech and malign influence campaigns on the platform. Critics have called the board a bid to forestall regulation or even an eventual breakup of the company as Facebook faces antitrust investigations.

The board’s establishment is “one of the highest-priority projects” at the company, Pergam said.

He called it an effort that many Facebook officials are “losing a lot of sleep over, because it’s that important to get right.”