In reaction to the on-going scrutiny of its content management efforts by lawmakers, journalists, and advocacy groups, Facebook has been working on making its decisions more transparent by establishing an independent content oversight board.
The final charter was introduced on Tuesday, 18 September 2019, articulating how the rulings of the board will be final and therefore not amenable to tinkering by the company, including its founder and long-time leader Mark Zuckerberg.
While there are still many details to be worked out, and the actual independence and efficacy of the board to be proven, the release of the charter seems to signal, at the very least, that Facebook is serious about addressing people’s concerns.
“The board’s decision will be binding, even if I or anyone at Facebook disagrees with it,” Zuckerberg said in a statement. “The board will use our values to inform its decisions and explain its reasoning openly and in a way that protects people’s privacy”.
According to the charter, as the year 2019 draws to a close, the company will select a group of co-chairs who will then appoint candidates for the board – no less than 11 at first, with the view of growing to about 40 in total.
The members, set to receive their salaries through a multimillion dollar trust, will serve part-time for a three-year term, and will probably have to rule on dozens of difficult cases in its first year, possibly undertaking thousands in the future.
Once the board is up and running, most of its dealings will have to do with complex and significant issues, meaning those affecting large numbers of people, as well as those which have sparked a public debate or pose a threat to someone’s rights to equal treatment or safety.
Zuckerberg stated his belief that “private companies […] should [not] be making so many important decisions about speech”, and that users will soon be able to appeal to the company by contact it directly and then by filing their complaints with the board.
“Just as our Board of Directors keeps Facebook accountable to our shareholders, we believe the Oversight Board can do the same for our community,” Zuckerberg explained.
Facebook said it set up the trust so other social media companies could join in the future, which means it remains to be seen whether Twitter, YouTube, and others will follow suit in coming years.