How does Facebook's new Oversight Board work?

It’s been dubbed by some as ‘Facebook’s supreme court.’

The world’s largest social media site has launched its independent Oversight Board nearly a year behind schedule.

NICK CLEGG, VICE PRESIDENT OF GLOBAL AFFAIRS AND COMMUNICATIONS AT FACEBOOK,

“This has never been established before. It is an experiment.”

EMI PALMOR, FACEBOOK OVERSIGHT BOARD MEMBER

"The timeline is to start working immediately. We assume that a lot of people have many complaints.”

But the delay means that Facebook is unlikely to handle cases related to the upcoming U.S. election.

So how will it work?

It was created in response to criticism over the way the social network handles problematic content.

Mark Zuckerberg first publicly floated the idea in 2018.

The board will rule whether content – posts, photos, videos, and comments - should be taken down on Facebook and its photo-sharing site Instagram.

These can be submitted by users – or Facebook itself.

The board can also recommend policy changes, although Facebook doesn’t have to implement them.

The social network has committed an initial $130 million to running the board.

So who’s on it?

20 members, although that will grow, including a former Danish prime minister, a Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize laureate, law experts, and Emi Palmor – former director general of the Israeli Ministry of Justice.

EMI PALMOR, FACEBOOK OVERSIGHT BOARD MEMBER

"Part of our independence as a board is that we are not concerned with Facebook as a company that wants to make money. I think that the fact that the board exists has already an impact on Facebook. I think the changes in Facebook policies in the past few months, and I think that a certain type of public discourse that has been evolving."

At first the board is expected to take on only dozens of cases and eventually thousands.

But it’s been criticized for its limited scope.

In 2019 alone, users appealed more than 10 million pieces of content that Facebook removed or took action on.

But Facebook’s Head of Global Affairs Nick Clegg says the chosen cases will have wider relevance.

NICK CLEGG, VICE PRESIDENT OF GLOBAL AFFAIRS AND COMMUNICATION AT FACEBOOK:

"It's an experiment which is of great significance for anyone who is interested in that boundary, that barrier between free expression and content which should not circulate on global social media platforms.”

The late launch means the board is unlikely to handle cases related to the U.S. election on November 3rd.

This has come under fire.

Tech watchdog Accountable Tech said the launch would be “too late to address Facebook’s deficiencies ahead of the election.”

In September Facebook critics launched a rival group to review the company’s content moderation, dubbed the “Real Facebook Oversight Board.”

NICK CLEGG, VICE PRESIDENT OF GLOBAL AFFAIRS AND COMMUNICATION AT FACEBOOK:

"I suspect in the long run the credibility and worth and legitimacy of the Oversight Board will only really be established. As in when it starts hearing cases and people see how it is arriving at wise and difficult judgments on very tricky, tricky content issues."

Video Transcript

- It's been dubbed by some as Facebook's Supreme Court. The world's largest social media site has launched its independent oversight board-- nearly a year behind schedule.

NICK CLEGG: This has never been established before. It is an experiment.

EMI PALMOR: The timeline is to start working immediately. We assume that a lot of people have many complaints.

- But the delay means that Facebook is unlikely to handle cases related to the upcoming US election. So how will it work? It was created in response to criticism over the way the social network handles problematic content.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: But it was probably around the time when it became public.

- Mark Zuckerberg first publicly floated the idea in 2018. The board will rule whether content-- posts, photos, videos, and comments-- should be taken down on Facebook and its photo-sharing site, Instagram. These can be submitted by users or Facebook itself. The board can also recommend policy changes, although Facebook doesn't have to implement them.

The social network has committed an initial $130 million to running the board. So who's on it? 20 members, although that'll grow, including a former Danish prime minister, a Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize laureate, law experts, and Emi Palmor, former director general of the Israeli Ministry of Justice.

EMI PALMOR: Part of our independence as a board is that we are not concerned with Facebook as a company that wants to make money. I think that the fact that the board exists has already an impact on Facebook. I think the changes in Facebook policies in the past few months. And I think that a certain type of public discourse that has been evolving.

- At first the board is expected to take on only dozens of cases, and eventually thousands. But it's been criticized for its limited scope. In 2019 alone, users appealed more than 10 million pieces of content that Facebook removed or took action on. But Facebook's head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, says the chosen cases will have wider relevance.

NICK CLEGG: It's an experiment which is of great significance for anyone who's interested in that boundary, that barrier, between free expression and content, which should not circulate on social-- global social media platforms.

- The late launch means the board is unlikely to handle cases related to the US election on November 3. This has come under fire. Tech watchdog Accountable Tech said the launch would be too late to address Facebook's deficiencies ahead of the election.

In September, Facebook critics launched a rival group to review the company's content moderation, dubbed "The Real Facebook Oversight Board."

NICK CLEGG: I suspect in the long run the credibility and worth and legitimacy of this oversight board will only really be established as and when it starts hearing cases, and people see how it is arriving at wise and difficult judgments on very tricky content issues.