Amid charges of suppressing conservative speech and breaching antitrust law, Facebook is unveiling plans to implement a “content oversight board” to serve as the platform’s “Supreme Court.”
According to Facebook’s new charter published Tuesday, the social network giant will begin employing a virtual Supreme Court to oversee appeals from users whose content has been censored or removed from the platform.
The oversight board will ultimately be comprised of 40 members when its fully staffed, but it’s preliminary staff will consist of 11 members.
Members of the adjudicating body – former judges, attorneys, journalists and publishers— will be paid through a multi-million dollar trust and have three-year term limits. They will, however, be permitted to “serve” for three terms.
Their time moderating content and complaints from the platform’s 2.4 billion users will only be part-time in conjunction with a full-time staff that examines submissions and conducts research.
The names and decisions of the board members will be listed in an online database, however board members who fear their safety will be allowed to opt out.
“Members must not have actual or perceived conflicts of interest that could compromise their independent judgment and decision-making,” and are required to have demonstrable “familiarity with matters relating to digital content and governance, including free expression, civic discourse, safety, privacy and technology,” the charter states.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg first introduced his plans to more efficiently police content on his platform in a 2018 blog post, claiming the social media site’s new governing body will alleviate concerns its users have about free speech.
“The board will be an advocate for our community — supporting people’s right to free expression, and making sure we fulfill our responsibility to keep people safe,” Zuckerberg wrote. “As an independent organization, we hope it gives people confidence that their views will be heard, and that Facebook doesn’t have the ultimate power over their expression.”
Zuckerberg also issued a statement Tuesday assuring the board will work autonomously and independently of his decision-making.
“The board’s decision will be binding, even if I or anyone at Facebook disagrees with it,” he wrote. “The board will use our values to inform its decisions and explain its reasoning openly and in a way that protects privacy.”
Facebook’s director of governance and global affairs Brent Harris assured reporters in a conference call Tuesday morning members of the oversight board will be racially and ideologically diverse.
“There’s going to be a set of people who serve on this board who make different people within that group uncomfortable,” Facebook’s director of governance and global affairs Brent Harris told reporters. “We believe that in building the board and constituting the board and truly representing diversity in the composition of this institution, that this is actually going to be a feature.”
The new board is slated to begin operation by November 2020 and will be fully staffed by the end of this year.
The modification to Facebook’s content moderation comes as the social media giant undergoes Congressional investigations and probes by the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.
Democrats and Republicans at the federal and state level have joined forces to rein in the unaccountable digital titan’s wealth, size, and market power.
The House Judiciary Committee launched a bipartisan probe on Friday into whether Facebook as well as monopolistic Google, Apple and Amazon are breaching antitrust law, mandating the digital market giants turnover internal documents and communications that deliberately eliminated its competitors during the time frame they rapidly expanded.
Virtually every state attorney general last Monday charged Facebook and Google with antitrust violations and announced plans to investigate the tech giants for using its conglomerate power to eliminate their competitors and stifle users. Standing in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., 50 attorneys general from U.S. states and territories signed onto an antitrust lawsuit into the Silicon Valley tech giants. Alabama and California are the only states that opted-out of the investigation.
Facebook is also under investigation by the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC has now officially opened an antitrust investigation into the tech sector, Facebook noted in its second quarter earnings announcement.
In July, the DOJ announced its own broad antitrust review into the entirety of Facebook.
Facebook has persistently faced backlash for suppressing conservative content and banning right-leaning users, even those running for public office, under the guise of combating “hate speech.”
After getting banned from Facebook, Republican congressional candidate Angela Roman, who is running in Oregon’s 5th congressional district, urged Americans who have been banned from the platform to flood a Senatorial hotline with testimony detailing the tech giant’s egregious censorship tactics.
Investigative journalist Laura Loomer, who is currently running in Florida’s 21st district, is also banned from Twitter, Facebook, and it’s subsidiary Instagram, after Facebook announced it was purging “dangerous” individuals from its platform, impeding the conservative firebrand’s ability to reach potential voters.
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