First Facebook Oversight Board members confirmed

Facebook has announced the first members of its new Oversight Board, the independent body which will have the final say on content allowed on both Facebook and Instagram.

Former editor-in-chief of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, is among the 20 board members to have been appointed.

First announced last year, the board will have the ability to overrule Facebook’s decisions on content moderation, and individuals who disagree with a Facebook content decision will also be able to appeal to the board.

The social network will also be able to directly refer significant and difficult cases to the independent body.

Promoting the diversity of its appointments as it announced its line-up, the Oversight Board said its four co-chairs of the board and 16 other members have between them lived in more than 27 countries, and speak about 29 languages.

However, critics have suggested that the Oversight Board is Facebook’s attempt to stall greater regulation being imposed on the company.

The four co-chairs are former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Catalina Botero Marino, a former special rapporteur for freedom of expression of the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights of the Organisation of American States, Columbia Law School professor Jamal Greene and Stanford Law professor Michael McConnell.

Their recruitment was led by Facebook, with the co-chairs then leading the selection of the rest of the members.

Other board members include Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman, digital rights and anti-censorship advocate Julie Owono – who leads Internet Sans Frontieres – and Emi Palmor, a former director-general of the Israeli ministry of justice.

Facebook has previously confirmed that the board will be funded by a 130 million US dollar trust, established by Facebook but which the board says is independent of the social network.

Earlier this year, Facebook published a set of proposed bylaws for the board, which will need to be approved by its members.

They propose that the board will manage its own membership and publish all of its decisions on its website, and Facebook will implement the board’s binding content decisions within seven days, as well as publish its response, except in cases where it could violate the law.

Mr Rusbridger said it had taken too long to create such a system for moderating content, but was pleased such a body was now in place.

“We are living in a world of information chaos and standing on the precipice of darkness,” he said.

Facebook
The number of board members is expected to rise to 40 over time (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“Societies can’t function unless their citizens can agree on what constitutes evidence, fact and truth.

“It’s perhaps taken us too long to realise this.

“The Oversight Board seems to be the first imaginative and bold step by one of the biggest players to find a way of reconciling the need to start imposing some kind of judgment and standards on what is published, while still maintaining the things that are wonderful about social media, and necessary for free speech.

“I’m impressed by the group of people that has been chosen and the processes that have been put in place.”

The number of board members is expected to rise to 40 over time.

It was confirmed its work will commence “immediately”, and the board is on track to hear cases in the coming months.

However, the board acknowledged the current coronavirus pandemic could affect its early development.

“We are still assessing how the global response to the coronavirus pandemic may impact important steps required for the board to reach full operational capability, including recruiting staff, training members and implementing tools essential to ensuring data privacy and security,” it said.

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