Facebook’s Oversight Board for Content Decisions Must Promote Greater Transparency and Accountability in Its Content Moderation Policy

Press Release
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April 30, 2019

Today, New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) urged Facebook to ensure that its planned “Oversight Board for Content Decisions” will represent diverse voices, be independent, and play a meaningful role in developing policy for Facebook’s content moderation decisions. OTI submitted comments as part of Facebook’s public consultation process and also signed on to a joint statement along with leading representatives from civil society, academia, and the investor community.

Last November, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook would be establishing an independent oversight body that would address cases of content removal on the Facebook platform and offer a new way for impacted users to appeal content takedown decisions. This January, Facebook released a draft Charter which provided a high-level overview of how this Oversight Board would operate. Since then, Facebook has hosted a series of consultations to solicit feedback on the draft Charter and has also launched an online public consultation period.

OTI works at the forefront of online free expression, content regulation, and platform transparency and accountability issues. Last fall, we released a Transparency Reporting Toolkit focused on content takedowns, which outlined best practices for internet and telecommunications companies who are issuing transparency reports on their content takedowns. In addition, last spring, as part of a coalition that supports the right to free expression online, we released the Santa Clara Principles on Transparency and Accountability Around Online Content Moderation, which outline minimum standards tech platforms must meet in order to provide adequate transparency and accountability around their content takedown efforts.

OTI participated in Facebook’s online public consultation process. In addition, we provided the company with further recommendations on how the Board should be structured and operated, focusing on five core pillars:

  1. Ensuring diverse perspectives are represented on the Board,
  2. Protecting the Board’s independence and legitimacy,
  3. Empowering the Board to provide meaningful input on content policy development
  4. Ensuring the Board fosters public dialogue, awareness and engagement around the Board and its operations
  5. Promoting transparency and accountability around the Board’s decisions and operations.

The following statement can be attributed to Spandana Singh, Policy Program Associate at New America’s Open Technology Institute:

"Facebook has accrued a significant amount of power when it comes to the management of online speech and expression. We hope that the creation of this Oversight Board, if done with regard to the principles we outline in our comments, will increase transparency and accountability around the platform’s content takedown decisions. In particular, it is critical that Facebook ensures the Board operates independently, represents the diversity of Facebook’s global base of users and plays a meaningful role in developing content policy."