Facebook’s Independent Content Oversight Board to Finally Begin Taking Cases

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Facebook director of governance and global affairs Brent Harris said in a Newsroom post that starting Thursday, if someone’s content is removed from Facebook or Instagram and they have exhausted all possible appeals with Facebook, they can appeal their case to the Oversight Board, which will make independent and binding decisions on the cases it chooses to hear.

The Oversight Board also revealed the appointment of Paul G. Haaga as the first individual trustee and chairperson of the Oversight Board Trust, describing him as “an experienced manager and trustee of nonprofit and for-profit organizations of various sizes.”

Since Zuckerberg first brought up the idea for the board, a global consultation process conducted by Facebook resulted in its trust, charter, bylaws, case management tool and an internal Facebook team to implement its decisions.

The first 20 members of the Oversight Board were revealed in May, and Harris wrote, “Since then, Board members have been undergoing a rigorous process of orientation that includes training on Facebook’s content enforcement, policies, and undergoing simulations of the case decision-making process. In parallel, the Board’s administration has also built out support structures for operations. And we have created a case management tool so that Board members can have a secure and privacy-protective way of selecting, reviewing, hearing and making decisions on cases.”

Here’s how the process works: People who have appealed eligible Facebook or Instagram content decisions and exhausted all possible appeals with Facebook will receive an Oversight Board Reference ID in their support inbox on Facebook or support requests section on Instagram.

They can use that Reference ID to submit their case to the Oversight Board, at which point they can provide a statement explaining why they are contesting Facebook’s decision and why they disagree with it, as well as providing additional context, including the motivation behind posting that content.

Harris wrote that the ability to appeal will be rolled out in waves in order to ensure product stability, but Facebook expects al Facebook and Instagram users to have access over the next few weeks.

Product lead for integrity, transparency and oversight Fay Johnson used a separate Newsroom post to explain the privacy and security measures in place for the tool that the Oversight Board will use to review the cases it chooses to review.

Johnson said the tool will only display information that is relevant to the Oversight Board’s operations, in line with its purpose and in accordance with all necessary and relevant legal and privacy considerations.

On the Facebook side, a small group of employees responsible for supporting the Oversight Board will have access to the case management tool.

Board members can use the tool to take notes, deliberate, vote and write decisions, all while keeping data secure.

When decisions are made public, information that could be used to easily identify individuals will only be published with those individuals’ consent.

Information that will be made available to members of the Oversight Board reviewing cases includes:

  • The content in question (whether it is a photo, post, video or comment).
  • Information on where the content was posted (page, profile, group).
  • Basic information about the person who posted or reported the content, such as name, account creation time, profile photo and cover image.
  • Case history.
  • Facebook’s explanation for its decision, including initial actions by content reviewers and submitted appeals, as well as details on the policy or policies in question.

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