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Jennifer
Jennifer
5 Min Read

The Oversight Board has been criticized for its shaky legal foundation, its reliance on white law professors for expertise, and its lack of oversight over religious persecution. Those issues aren’t alone, though. In this article, we take a look at how Facebook’s complicated relationships with the states and its publics have affected the board’s rulings. We also explore Mark Zuckerberg’s response to the freedom of speech controversy.

Mark Zuckerberg’s answer to freedom of speech controversy is to outsource

In an effort to resolve gray areas in its content moderation policies, Facebook has enlisted the help of a new group. Its Oversight Board is comprised of 20 members from around the world.

Zuckerberg’s goal was to establish a body that could resolve a wide range of content moderation questions. He selected his Oversight Board members with a high degree of expertise. But he was careful to make sure they were independent.

The board will review the rules of posting on Facebook and decide whether certain posts are offensive. It will be up to them to determine which videos are too violent and which photos are too racy.

Facebook’s complex web of relationships with states and its publics

Despite its popularity and ubiquity, Facebook’s relationships with states and its publics are complex. There are several key issues to consider when navigating this maze. The Trump ban is a good example.

There are many faces that Facebook presents to different publics. For instance, there are internal and external priorities that differ between the company’s employees and its state and non-state partners. These different interests influence the company’s decision making.

Among the company’s various strategies to deal with this, the Oversight Board has been a prominent player. The Oversight Board is responsible for improving the company’s decision-making processes. Its ability to shape policy is limited without cooperation from the social network itself.

The Oversight Board’s critics are important, but incomplete

The Oversight Board has been a topic of conversation since the dust settled. For the uninitiated, it is a private endeavor, albeit one with a philanthropic streak. Indeed, it has a motto, “To protect and enhance the quality of the public’s experience in the Facebook community.” Essentially, it is a philanthropically funded quasi-judicial monitoring entity, and as such, it has had to come up with its own spin on the standard operating procedure. Notably, it is not the only social media platform with a similar model. In other words, the Oversight Board is no different than a family of siblings: siblings in arms.

The Oversight Board’s rulings on religious persecution

The Oversight Board’s rulings on religious persecution in India have a few fans and foes. One naysayer claims that it is an unreliable entity with a short lifespan. However, the board has managed to stay alive for at least a few years thanks to the generosity of the Indian government. For instance, the board recently announced its plans to help the state’s anti-discrimination commission fight a lawsuit filed by the state’s dwindling Muslim population. This is the first time the board has been given this much power since its inception. As the name suggests, the board is an unofficial advisory body that aims to bolster the state’s fight against extremism.

Facebook’s painstaking efforts to prepare faces to meet with its publics

Facebook’s internal complexity and different interests and priorities make it a polarizing company. Its relationships with state, civil society, and scholars and other groups vary considerably. There are multiple regulatory conversations occurring at the same time, in parallel. Those conversations are mediated through powerful actors. This means that Facebook has no single face.

Conclusion

While the Oversight Board is an important institution that works with Facebook to hold it accountable, it cannot be seen as a monolithic face. The Board is just one component in a larger ecosystem that includes other actors and states, as well as a complex set of internal policies and structures.

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