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Jennifer
Jennifer
4 Min Read

The Facebook oversight board is looking at a ban on the use of personal information by the company. But the panel is facing scrutiny over its lack of transparency, the diversity of its members and its control of voting shares. Here’s a look at what they have to say.

Diverse panel

The Facebook Oversight Board (FOB) is an international body responsible for reviewing the company’s policies and practices, and for deciding hard cases of content moderation. The board is a diverse group, and the composition of its membership has been questioned by some observers. However, Facebook has indicated that it wishes to ensure its experiment is successful.

Members of the board include experts in areas such as telecommunications, private sector reform, antitrust and media. Panelists also discussed issues such as algorithmic transparency, data portability and agency enforcement. Some of the panelists also raised the risks of a weakened local news ecosystem.

There are two co-chairs from the United States. Nadine Strossen is a former national president of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Thomas Spence is a publisher at Regnery Publishing. Other members of the board are from the United Kingdom, Africa and Southeast Asia. Despite its diversity, Facebook has noted that there is a lack of representation of Southeast Asian countries on the FOB.

Lack of transparency during hearings

The FDA is being slow to report violations of medical standards. A whistleblower testified before Congress last month, saying that the agency is not being candid about violating guidelines. It is also not releasing any information about violations to scientific journals or the public.

Meanwhile, Facebook has been under scrutiny for using its algorithm to push users to engage with harmful content. The Associated Press has a series on the topic. Specifically, the ShotSpotter system tracks the consequences of algorithmic decisions. In a separate report, the Facebook Oversight Board said that there is room for improvement. They are now drafting recommendations for Facebook.

However, the Congressional oversight regime is not without its shortcomings. Although the Case Act requires greater transparency, it still has gaps and it may be time to add more resources to ensure that all agencies comply. One major gap is the lack of a full-fledged system to review and evaluate the reports. If this is the case, the increased reporting does not mean much.

Trump ban

If you haven’t heard, Facebook suspended former President Donald Trump’s account indefinitely after a mob stormed the Capitol Building on January 7. While it’s been more than six months since then, the social media giant still hasn’t reinstated the former president’s account.

Earlier this month, Facebook referred the case of Trump’s suspension to an independent oversight board of lawyers, academics, and activists. The panel decided that Trump’s account should remain banned, but they left some questions unanswered.

For the moment, the Oversight Board’s decision raises important questions about the way the company handles political leaders. Specifically, the ban may have long-term implications for the United States, as well as the presidential campaign in 2020.

The advisory board consists of a handful of former heads of state and Nobel Peace laureates, as well as 20 international experts. It is funded through an independent trust set up by Facebook.

Conclusion

The advisory board is meant to deal with the hardest content decisions. However, it doesn’t have the legal legitimacy to make these decisions independently of the tech giant.

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