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Facebook’s Oversight Board gives the power of judgment back to Facebook

Esperanza Gomez



Mark Zuckerberg first decided to create a Facebook Oversight Board to supervise the power of his company. The effort was to create a space when the company could turn to in its most difficult times. “Facebook should not make so many important decisions about free expression and safety on our own,” said Zuckerberg.

But in a highly controversial moment, the Board turned back the responsibility to Facebook, saying Facebook needs to be more transparent about its decisions.

Facebook imposed restrictions on former President Trump after the 6th January riot at The Capitol, but it was wrong to impose an indefinite suspension without proper explanations, implied the Board.

“In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities,”, the decision says, “The Board declines Facebook’s request and insists that Facebook apply and justify a defined penalty.”

The power exerted by the Board is a result of Facebook’s decision to create and give it recognition. And also, paid for its existence to help the company in times of controversial crisis. But, then the decision by the Board came in as a shock to critics who thought the Board would heed to Facebook and speak in its favor. 

“This decision is enormously promising for creating real accountability for Facebook,” Kate Klonick, an assistant law professor at St. John’s University School of Law wrote on Twitter. She exclusively had access to the formation of the board. 

She also tweeted, “This finally publicly calls out FB for inconsistent, opaque, and unclear administration of its “newsworthiness” and “public figure” exceptions and demand they both create better standards and make those standards transparent.”

Facebook is one of the largest platforms where people from all walks of life can express themselves freely. This compelled Facebook to create a semi-independent board consisting of lawyers, journalists, politicians, etc., and hoped to increase the horizon of making decisions that were until then enjoyed by the CEO.

The Board highlights that it would answer questions concerning whether posts on Facebook are following the protocols laid by the company, but it denied taking responsibility for what and how those protocols and policies should be.

“Facebook must make its decision and be held accountable for what it decides,” said  Michael McConnell on a conference call after the decision was made. He is a board co-chair and a former federal appeals judge.

“Anyone who is concerned about Facebook’s excessive concentration of power should welcome the board telling Facebook that it cannot create new, unwritten rules when it suits them,” said Helle Thorning-Schmidt, former Prime Minister of Denmark and also a Board co-chair.

The Board would oversee the flow and functionality of Facebook’s policies, however, it is unwilling to take responsibility, create and pass judgment on those policies.

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