Town Hall on Facebook Community Oversight Board

I had the privilege of attending a town hall meeting hosted by the OU Law School Center for International Business and Human Rights   http://www.law.ou.edu/IBHRCenter. 

They had a session describing how Facebook is seeking to form review panels of facebook users to help set their community standards. They will likely have a website that will allow every day users to report problems that they think should be heard from the board.

There are a few things that are interesting. 

  • Board members will only work part time – which seems crazy with 2 billion users – there are going to be a lot of people who want to be heard by the board.
  • Facebook is going to pay board members out of a trust in order to keep them impartial and not paid by facebook.
  • There is a lot of concern about the power of Facebook staff to drive the selection of cases to be heard.
  • Each group will work like a review panel and will release statements kind of like support and dissent documents like they do in the supreme court. These will be published.
  • Facebook expects the board to both agree and disagree with decisions made by the algorithm and their staff.  They feel that the board will provide them with oversight to be able to create a safe community.  They expect the board to have full independent decision making power.
  • Facebook community standards are already based on human rights values. They broke them down into:
    • Free expression
    • Safety
    • Equity
  • They wonder if these standards will expand after the boards convene and hear cases.

I find this really interesting, and I am cautiously watching to see what happens with it..  It is a big task and big company, with lots of people whose ability to make money is tied to their platform.  So the ramifications of whatever process they have is going to have world wide implications.

My questions/ ponderings:

For me.. The board is going to be made up of every day people.  I thought, what if I were on this board and I questioned:

  • Would I have enough skills to be able to make decisions?
  • Would I be able to write effectively to do a brief about a case?
  • How would someone put their own beliefs and biases away to make a fair and just decision?
  • Much like law, is this board creating precedent? How would that be enforced?
  • How does this translate to a world wide company – ie.. people asked if something is illegal in one country would they not deal with it in this board? Different countries have different laws?
  • how do you really create a board that is as diverse as facebook users?
  • Finally, if you are a facebook users or even non users – you have all these connections to the tool and platform – what guidelines would have to be in place to make the best candidates?  Ie.. one person said.. no one should be a facebook advertiser – I have done facebook ads once for work and I have stuff on marketplace – am i out? or do I have perspective I bring to the table as having used a variety of facebook tools?

Overall this is a huge undertaking.  As a Facebook user and in my role as a technology educator it is important to participate in the process and make ourselves aware of what is going. Many other tech companies take the lead from facebook, what they do may be the standard.  In another view, Facebook if it is truly a community, how do you participate in other communities? How do you contribute your input to your neighborhood? Church? Club? Organization?

 

Learn More:

if you want to know more: please read their draft of their process and current questions : https://fbnewsroomus.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/draft-charter-oversight-board-for-content-decisions-2.pdf

Make sure you are aware of the current community standards: https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards/  And also look at how they are currently enforcing the community standards. https://transparency.facebook.com/community-standards-enforcement