Facebook wants ‘other businesses’ to use the Supervisory Board too


Facebook created the Oversight Board to help solve its toughest content moderation decisions. But although the body is often referred to as the “Facebook Supreme Court,” Facebook executives have suggested that some of their peers may one day benefit from the council’s services.

Such a move would have clear benefits for Facebook, which could claim that its self-regulatory experiment has been so successful that its competitors have chosen to join them. But for now, competing platforms have little incentive (and apparently little interest) in doing so. .

The Oversight Board and the “ other companies ”

In a 2019 letter describing Facebook’s “commitment to the supervisory board,” Mark Zuckerberg hinted that the board’s jurisdiction may one day extend beyond Facebook. “We expect the board to hear only a small number of cases initially, but over time we hope it will expand its reach and potentially include more companies in the sector,” he said. .

The comment received little attention at the time, but the idea has recently resurfaced. Talk to a Financial Times Following the board’s decision to suspend Donald Trump, Facebook vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg also raised the prospect of an industry-wide supervisory board. “Who knows, maybe in the future this could be the seed of an idea that then gets carried over into statutory regulation or it could be something that could work for more businesses than just Facebook.” , did he declare. “I would love to imagine [that] in about five years, the Supervisory Board will be able to function in the same way as many other social media companies that face dilemmas very similar to ours. “

When asked about Clegg’s remarks, Twitter and YouTube declined to comment. Reddit did not respond to a request for comment.

For now, the Oversight Board charter makes no mention of companies other than Facebook. And no other social media company has publicly expressed the slightest interest in entrusting them with its own content moderation decisions. But it’s not just Facebook executives who want to expand the skills of the board. At least one Supervisory Board official also raised the idea as a possibility. Speaking to SXSW, public policy officer Rachel Wolbers said the organization didn’t like the nickname Facebook Supervisory Board. “It’s really because we’re hoping we’re going to do such a good job that other companies might need our help,” she said.

It is not even known how this proposal would work. The board is fully funded by Facebook, which has also been deeply involved in shaping its rules and choosing its members. Involving other companies would certainly be a justification for Facebook, as it would make the board more legitimate and give the company ammunition against criticism. It would also help the Supervisory Board to appear more independent, as it could be the “Supreme Court” for all social media, not just Facebook.

But there are few clear advantages for competing platforms, which seem unlikely to want to join Facebook’s attempt at self-regulation. “I think the big platforms will continue to monitor their counterparts on application decisions, but we are a long way from YouTube and Twitter who are committed to respecting Facebook’s Supervisory Board,” said Nu Wexler, consultant in political communication and former spokesperson for Facebook, Google and Twitter. “They all have different rules and they like their autonomy.”

There are also more practical limitations. Not only would the board be required to know the nuances of each company’s policies, but it would likely need to develop a separate framework for each platform, as well as systems to handle user calls and public comments from users. each. More board members and support staff would also be needed. (The board currently has 20 members and plans to grow to 40 just to cover Facebook calls.)

A spokesperson for the Supervisory Board said such plans were in the distant future. “The Supervisory Board was created to test an online governance model that could potentially serve other services in the long run, but our only focus at the moment is Facebook and Instagram,” said the head of communications at counsel, Dex Hunter-Torricke. “Content moderation is a huge challenge for many platforms, and the Supervisory Board believes that fewer very important decisions should be made by companies alone. I expect that the lessons learned from the board over the next several years can help other companies determine their approaches to managing online content. “

Still, there is at least precedent for such an idea. Industries have long created their own regulatory bodies to set rules and standards. In the video game industry, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, or ESRB, was formed in the early 1990s and created the game rating system that is widely used today around the world. The group “One of the best examples of industry self-regulation in the country.” Similar organizations exist for the recording, television and film industry.

When it comes to social media platforms, companies have banded together in the past on specific issues, such as terrorism-related content. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have worked together for years through the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terror (GIFCT), which was created to prevent the dissemination of terrorist content on social media. Likewise, social media companies shared their research on election interference, disinformation campaigns and platform manipulation.

But integrating other platforms with the experience of Facebook’s supervisory board would be another matter. On the one hand, the mere existence of the board of directors is still controversial. While some applauded his efforts to try to force Facebook to follow , there are still real questions about its influence. Its biggest critics said it was little more than a way for Facebook to avoid taking responsibility for its decisions and solving its most pressing problems.

“I am skeptical that the Supervisory Board will get to this place where it can actually make credible recommendations for other platforms,” ​​Jessica Gonzalez, co-CEO of the Free Press Institute and member of “Real Facebook Oversight Board of Directors, ”Engadget told Engadget. “I just don’t think this body is equipped to make decisions for the whole field.”

For Gonzalez, the issue goes beyond criticism of Facebook. Although the board has recruited “brilliant people,” she said they are not representative of the communities most affected by the policies of the social media platform. “There aren’t a ton of grassroots perspectives here. We have to have racial diversity, we have to have socio-economic diversity. And we actually need to hear from communities about the impact of those decisions on them.

Another issue raised by critics is that a “Supervisory Board” created by Facebook does not replace the .

“Facebook and other social media platforms with the same business model will find ways to highlight divisive content to generate ad revenue,” New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone wrote. following the Supervisory Board’s decision to suspend Trump. “Every day, Facebook amplifies and promotes disinformation and disinformation, and the structure and rules governing its supervisory board generally seem to ignore this disturbing reality. Clearly, real accountability will only come with legislative action. “

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