Facebook’s independent oversight committee can overturn the company’s decision on whether to dismiss and recommend policy changes. The committee will begin reviewing the case on Thursday.

The committee is the world’s largest social network. The committee was established to respond to criticisms of its handling of problematic content. It is open to users who are exhausted from the company’s appeal process and to Facebook itself.

However, Facebook said that the board of directors is unlikely to handle cases related to the upcoming U.S. election, and that events related to content decisions by social media companies are being closely watched. Facebook’s head of governance and global affairs, Brent Harris, told reporters on Thursday’s conference call that the company will not submit cases for expedited review before the November 3 vote.

The committee was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s first public float concept in 2018, and the committee announced its first batch of 20 members in May. They include former prime ministers, Nobel Peace Prize winners, and several legal experts and human rights defenders.

Global users can file an appeal via the board’s website within 15 days of Facebook’s contact with the board of directors to decide on its final content decision, although this option will be gradually rolled out in the coming weeks.

A board spokesperson told Reuters last month that since the establishment of the board last year, the coronavirus pandemic has caused delays.

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The committee can only review a small portion of Facebook and Instagram content, and the committee said it will share details of its first batch of cases in the coming weeks and openly solicit public comments. The board of directors can have up to 90 days to make a case decision, and Facebook can act accordingly.

A member of the oversight committee and former director-general of the Israeli Ministry of Justice, Emi Palmor, said in an interview that the board may recommend policy changes that may affect Facebook’s functionality and how the company can distribute content or profit from it.

She said: “We are not worried that Facebook is a company that wants to make money.”

Palmer said that the board needs to gain the trust of the public in order to put pressure on Facebook to respect its policy recommendations and binding content decisions.

Harris said that Facebook, which can conduct case trials on issues such as content left or deleted on the site, advertisements or Facebook groups, began to select its cases for trial earlier this week.

Palmer said the committee is expected to increase to 40 members and will also start work “immediately” to select the next member.

The committee’s administrative director Thomas Hughes said that the committee has been criticized for its limited scope, and its goal is to be able to listen to users’ cases of legacy and deletion from early 2021.

In September, Facebook critics, including the organizers of the social media ad boycott, launched a competitor group to review the company’s content review, which they called the “Real Facebook Oversight Committee.”

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Facebook has invested an initial $130 million (approximately Rs 9.57 billion) into an irrevocable trust fund to fund the board of directors.

© Thomson Reuters 2020


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