Facebook Introduces Bylaws for Its Global Independent Oversight Board for Content

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Facebook’s global independent oversight board for content only has one person on it thus far, but it also has a set of bylaws, which were introduced Tuesday.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially mentioned the creation of the board in November 2018, but progress has been slow, with the social network saying late last month that it missed its year-end-2019 target for naming board members, and it would do so sometime this year.

Director of governance and global affairs Brent Harris said in a Newsroom post that Thomas Hughes will be the first director of oversight board administration.

Hughes is the former executive director of Article 19, an international non-governmental organization with a focus on freedom of expression and digital rights.

Board members and trustees will be added in the coming months, Harris said.

He summarized the board’s new bylaws in the Newsroom post, also revealing that Facebook will build a case management tool with the aim of ensuring user privacy and providing secure access to necessary information for board members.

Initially, the board will only review individual pieces of content that Facebook has already taken down. Those cases can be referred to the board via appeals by people whose content was removed, within 15 days of the exhaustion of the traditional appeals process on Facebook or Instagram, or by Facebook itself, which can refer “significant and difficult” cases.

When the board finally does become operational, it will only hear cases on individual pieces of content on Facebook and Instagram, with no oversight over Messenger, WhatsApp, Facebook Dating, Facebook Marketplace or Oculus.

Harris wrote, “As we continue to improve and expand the technology that makes appeals to the board possible, we want to also make it possible for people to refer cases where Facebook decided not to remove a piece of content. Similarly, the types of content that the board can review will grow over time, such as groups and pages, as described in the bylaws. The oversight board is meant to be dynamic. It will need to remain responsive to shifts in how people use Facebook’s services.”

He added that he expects the board to choose cases with the greatest potential to guide Facebook’s future decisions and policies, and the goal is for the board to come to a decision, and Facebook to act on that decision, within approximately 90 days.

Harris also described an expedited review process: “In order to ensure that the board can weigh in on the most significant decisions facing Facebook, including those with real-world implications, we have included a mechanism for expedited review. In these situations, Facebook can refer urgent cases straight to the board for immediate consideration. This process was created in response to feedback from external stakeholders, who stressed that the board will need to review some cases much more quickly than others.”

Facebook said it is committed to implementing board decisions on individual pieces of content within seven days,

As for policy recommendations, Harris wrote, “Some recommendations may involve only minor modifications to current policies or practices, while others may involve more substantial or complex changes. The latter will go through our full policy development process or other appropriate channels. This will allow for a thorough and considered analysis of the proposed policy recommendation, as well as additional stakeholder engagement.”

He concluded, “As stated in the bylaws, Facebook will provide a public response regarding any policy recommendations and follow-on action within 30 days. This is a crucial aspect of our commitment to the board, as well as to public transparency.”


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