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What the Facebook Oversight Board means for human rights, and where we go from here

Data protection Media regulation Freedom of speech Human rights Social media Digital communications Internet governance Online privacy

In May 2020, Facebook announced the inaugural batch of members of its Oversight Board. The Board will be a group of 40 people supported by staff, whose initial task will be to serve as an independent appeals mechanism to have a final say on select cases of content removals decided by Facebook. This is an important development that will have significant implications for how Facebook — and others who may follow suit — make decisions about what can be shared on its platform.

In this report, the authors analyse this first iteration of the Board, its potential for impact, and challenges that lie ahead.

Key findings:

  • The issue of content governance in a major dominant platform involves hard questions and complex trade-offs.
  • Facebook has a responsibility to uphold human rights and prevent harms by providing its users with transparency, notice, review mechanisms, and access to remedy — across all its products and activities.
  • The Oversight Board can help provide that when it comes to content takedown decisions.
  • Facebook’s impact on freedom of expression and other fundamental rights is significant, persistent, and goes well beyond what it has tasked the Board to deal with.
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