In its first decisions, Facebook Oversight Board has overturned four out of five posts removed by Facebook previously. The Board was established in October 2020 as an independent body to make decisions regarding controversial content on Facebook and Instagram. Since its launch, more than 150,000 cases have been appealed to the Board.
According to the Board’s website, it uses independent judgment to support people’s right to free expression and ensure those rights are being adequately respected.
Facebook and other social media giants have been receiving serious backlash for their censorship of what some claim to be “free speech”. In January 2021, former US President Donald Trump was banned from many social media platforms, including Facebook, following the riots at Capitol hill.
Many leaders worldwide called for other countries to unite and ban these social media tech giants or hold them accountable for their role in promoting online hate groups, spread of misinformation, and political censorship. Some of these leaders, like the President of Mexico, Poland’s Prime Minister and others, have expressed that though they did not necessarily agree with Donald Trump, they also do not agree with how he has been censored on social media.
One of the overturned decisions, however, has received backlash. A Myanmar user had posted photos of a deceased child with the phrase, “There is something wrong with Muslims psychologically,” as written in the Board’s description of the case. The board viewed the phrase as “commentary on the apparent inconsistency between Muslims’ reaction to events in France and China.”
Photo: Courtesy of Oversight Board, case number 2020-002-FB-UA
On January 29 2021, the Board announced that it will be opening the public comments process. Two cases have been selected, including the case relating to former President Trump’s indefinite suspension from Facebook and Instagram. Its case number is 2021-001-FB-FBR. The posts under review that have been deleted by Facebook were both posted by Trump.
One of the posts is a video by Trump, where he is asking his supporters to go home and keep peace. The second post is a statement written by Trump. According to Facebook, the first post was removed because it violated its Community Standard on Dangerous Individuals and Organizations. The second post was removed under the same standard.
The first post that violated “Community Standard on Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy (Video: Courtesy of Associated Press via Youtube).
The second post removed was a statement put out by Trump that also violated the same policy.
According to Monika Bickert, Vice President of Content Policy, Facebook continues to base their guidelines on health and COVID-19 regulations, and on advice from CDC and WHO.
“Included with the board’s decision are numerous policy advisory statements. According to the bylaws we will have up to 30 days to fully consider and respond to these recommendations. Today’s decisions and future decisions made by the board are binding on Facebook, and we will restore or remove content based on their determination,” said Bickert.
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