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After A Year Of Criticism, Will Facebook's Oversight Board Help In Better Governance? The Oversight Board will work with Facebook and issue policy advisory opinions on Facebook's content policies

By Shreya Ganguly

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Social network company Facebook Inc has been severely criticized worldwide for lack of stringent user data protection framework and virality of unlawful content across the platform. The biggest scandal that rocked Facebook's reputation beyond repair is the infamous Cambridge Analytica data scandal last year.

In November 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had announced that the company was planning to create an independent body that would be responsible for content policy decisions. Now the company has announced the structure of the Oversight Board and its relationship to Facebook, in a charter.

Facebook's Plans With The Oversight Board

According to the company, the independent body will be working with Facebook and will be responsible for "protecting free expression by making principled, independent decisions about important pieces of content and by issuing policy advisory opinions on Facebook's content policies". The board will begin taking up cases from the first half of 2020.

According to the company, the board will review content and issue decisions. It will also provide advisory opinions on Facebook's content policies. "Facebook will promptly implement the board's content decisions, which are binding. In addition, the board may issue policy recommendations to Facebook, as part of its overall judgment on each individual case. This is how it was envisioned that the board's decisions will have lasting influence over Facebook's policies, procedures and practices," Facebook said in a statement released on September 17.

Explaining its relationship with the board, Facebook said that it would provide information required for the board to make its decisions. The company will request the board to review content, seek policy guidance and also act on the basis of the board's recommendations.

Process To Be Followed By The Board

The company will select cases that involve content which "involves issues that are severe, large-scale and important for public discourse".

According to the charter, cases will be reviewed by a panel of board members which will include at least one member from the region where the case originated. "Facebook will provide information, in compliance with applicable legal and privacy restrictions, that is reasonably required for the board to make a decision. The posting person or the reporting person will have the opportunity to submit relevant and informed written statements to the board," the charter read.

According to the company, the panels will take decisions on the basis of consensus. If not achieved, a majority of the panel will resolve a case. The final decision will include determination on the content along with the explanation from the board about its decision.

"Each decision will be made publicly available and archived in a database of case decisions on the board's website, subject to data and privacy restrictions," Facebook noted explaining the transparency in the board decisions.

Facebook And CEO Facing Criticism Across Globe

In August, during an interview with, an US-based weekly newspaper, Willamette Week, the US Senator Ron Wyden had said that Mark Zuckerberg should face a prison term for "repeatedly lying to American people about privacy".

Prior to this, in July, multiple reports had revealed that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking to impose a fine of $5 billion on Facebook for violating policies, data breaches arising from the Cambridge Analytics scandal which revealed data of 87 million users.

Shreya Ganguly

Former Features Writer

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