Facebook oversight expanded: watchdogs follow


As Facebook seems to be broadening how its internal oversight board can review content, other outside activists are conducting their own scrutiny of what’s on the platform.


Reuters reports today show that Facebook is due to extend its own board’s review to items that are left up on the site, where users can suggest internal auditing. Previously, such collaborative oversight was limited to content that had been taken down for one reason or another.


Meanwhile, activists are claiming that Facebook’s oversight is inadequate in conducting their own “Real Facebook Oversight Board” a la Dr. Seuss: (the bee watcher watcher watched the bee watcher…) Despite Facebook investing $130 million in its oversight system, critics claim it takes months for the board to respond to individual cases, and that the vigilance of the board leaves something lacking.


“Today a group of academics, researchers and civil rights leaders go live on with ‘The Real Facebook Oversight Board’ which is designed to criticize and discuss the role of the platform in the upcoming US election,” wrote Mike Butcher at TechCrunch in September of last year. “The group includes Facebook’s ex-head of election security, leaders of the #StopHateForProfit campaign and Roger McNamee, early Facebook investor.”


In recent years, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have been pressured to crack down on lies, distortions and disinformation. Both banned the president, cutting off a tide of endless nonsense, but to many, it was too little, too late. On the other hand, the platforms aren’t publishers, as they point out, and have relatively little control over the mass of users, to wit – if enough people want to post something, Facebook would have a hard time erasing it completely.


Now, Facebook is attempting to clarify the power of its board to control content.


“The board’s rulings, which are binding and can overturn decisions by the world’s largest social media company and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, deal with only a small slice of Facebook’s content decisions,” writes Elizabeth Culliford for Reuters. “It can also recommend policy changes, but Facebook does not have to enact these.”


If your portfolio contemplates any aspect of social media, keep an eye on these developments.