Facebook's Oversight Board open but unlikely to play role before U.S. election

By Elizabeth Culliford (Reuters) - Facebook Inc's independent Oversight Board, which can overrule company decisions on whether content should be removed and recommend policy changes, started accepting cases for review on Thursday.


 Facebooks Oversight Board open but unlikely to play role before U.S. election

By Elizabeth Culliford

(Reuters) - Facebook Inc's independent Oversight Board, which can overrule company decisions on whether content should be removed and recommend policy changes, started accepting cases for review on Thursday.

The board, which was created in response to criticism of Facebook's handling of problematic content, is open for cases from users who have exhausted the company's appeals process and from Facebook itself.

However, Facebook has said the board is unlikely to handle cases related to the U.S. election. Brent Harris, Facebook's director of governance and global affairs, told reporters on a call on Thursday that the company would not submit a case for expedited review before the Nov. 3 vote.

Global users can submit appeals through the board's website in the 15 days after Facebook contacts them about its final content decision. The board, whose first 20 members were announced in May, said it may take some weeks for all users to have this option.

The oversight board, which will only be able to review a small slice of content, said it would share details on its first cases in the coming weeks and open a public comment process. A maximum of 90 days is given for the board to reach case decisions and for Facebook to act on them.

A board spokesman told Reuters last month the coronavirus pandemic had contributed to delays in launching the board, which Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg publicly floated in 2018 and which was planned to start work last year.

The board, which has been criticized for the limited types of content it can rule on, aims to be able to hear cases from users about content that has been left up, as well as taken down, on Facebook and Instagram starting in early 2021, the board's director of administration Thomas Hughes said.

"I can tell you that it was our first question ... to be able to do both," said Emi Palmor, an oversight board member and former director general of the Israeli Ministry of Justice, told Reuters on Thursday. "We have been promised that it's going to happen quite quickly."

Facebook, which can refer cases on whether content should remain up or come down and on a wider range of issues like ads or Facebook groups, can also start asking for policy recommendations.

In September Facebook critics, including the organizers of a social media advertising boycott, launched a rival group to review the company's content moderation, which they dubbed the "Real Facebook Oversight Board." Palmor said the two groups had not been in contact.

Palmor said the board, which is expected to grow to about 40 people, would also "immediately" start work to select its next members.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; Editing by Chris Reese and Richard Chang)

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