Facebook’s Oversight Board to launch just before US election

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Facebook Inc’s long-delayed independent Oversight Board plans to launch at mid-late October, just before the 3rd of November US presidential election, but a Facebook spokeswoman said on Thursday it was unlikely that the board could manage election-related cases.

The board, created by Facebook in response to criticism of its handling of problematic material, will initially have the capacity to review decisions to take down posts from Facebook and Instagram, and advocate policy changes.

Oversight Board member Alan Rusbridger told journalists at our partner news agency Reuters in an interview this week the board was now aiming for an October launch. A board spokesman said that the overdue launch, originally planned for last year, was further slowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Possible cases would come to the board from users who have exhausted the appeals procedure, or be sent from Facebook. Deciding and implementing rulings would take up to 90 days, though Facebook could ask for them to be expedited within 30 days.

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The Facebook spokeswoman said it was improbable that instances related to the election could get through the process given that time period.

Rusbridger also stated that cases involving President Trump’s articles were not among those the board had looked at in trial runs.

“We haven’t done a Trump case,” said Rusbridger, the former long-time Editor of the left-wing anti-Trump and pro-EU newspaper, the Guardian.

“We have done a nudity case, we’ve done a blasphemy case.”

Facebook faced employee backlash in recent weeks over its decision to take no action over posts from Trump containing misleading claims about mail-in voting and inflammatory language regarding anti-racism protests. Its smaller rival Twitter, by contrast, attached fact-checking warnings and labels to the same posts.

Tech watchdog Accountable Tech, which started a campaign asking the board’s members to need “real authority” or step, said in a statement on Thursday the launch would be “too late to address Facebook’s deficiencies ahead of the election.”

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The board will initially examine only appeals over posts that Facebook has taken down, instead of content that the provider makes the decision to render up. Some experts say that means it’ll be of little use in addressing problems like misinformation and hate speech.

It will also initially only deal with individual posts, not Facebook ads, or groups.

Mr Rusbridger said the board hadn’t yet made any changes to its remit.

Rusbridger also declined to comment on Facebook’s coverage of exempting politicians’ speech and ads from its third-party fact-checking program, though he said, “I can’t imagine we won’t have a case brought to us on that”.

‘WIDER RESONANCE’

Mr Rusbridger said the board would be looking for cases with “wider resonance,” although precedents set by conclusions on individual posts wouldn’t be binding in future cases.

Facebook can also ask the board for policy recommendations although it does not need to act on these, a frame that has been criticised by some US Democratic lawmakers.

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The board, which includes a left-wing former Danish prime minister, a Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize laureate, law specialists and human rights advocates from all over the world, is anticipated to grow into a set of 40 members.

Mr Rusbridger said the board was considering how it will select these candidates but wasn’t yet picking additional members.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford. Editing by Peter Graff, Tom Brown and Steve Orlofsky. Comment by Rob Phillips.

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