With Facebook increasingly coming under fire over its content decisions and enforcements - and with the company also seeking to distance itself from editorial rulings - back in January, The Social Network outlined its plans for a new, independent content review board which would provide an updated framework for platform posting regulations, and a new way for users to appeal those decisions.
Now, after months of meetings with relevant groups, Facebook has released its framework document, based on feedback from the relevant bodies, which it will use to govern the development of its content review body.
The key points of emphasis, based on Facebook's initial discussions, have been:
- Independence - Facebook says that organizations have repeatedly stated the need for a group that operates independent of Facebook itself, and is not influenced by Facebook management, governments or third parties. "The board will need a strong foundation for its decision-making, a set of higher-order principles - informed by free expression and international human rights law - that it can refer to when prioritizing values like safety and voice, privacy and equality".
- Selection - Facebook says that another key point is exactly how the board will select and hear cases, and subsequently deliberate on outcomes. Facebook says that, in making its decisions, "the board may need to consult experts with specific cultural knowledge, technical expertise and an understanding of content moderation".
- Diversity - Lastly, Facebook says that the new board needs to be "as diverse as the many people on Facebook and Instagram". "These members should be experts who come from different backgrounds, different disciplines, and different viewpoints, but who can all represent the interests of a global community".
Facebook says that the plan is to eventually condense these requirements into a new, 40-person board, which will oversee its more controversial content opinions, and rule on the best way forward for the platform. It's an important initiative, not only to better protect users, and improve Facebook's processes, but also in terms of further government regulation, and saving Facebook from coming under more intense regulatory scrutiny.
If Facebook is forced to submit to more extensive regulation, that could be costly, and could see the company lose a level of control over its platform. The development of an independent board may help to avoid this, while also meeting the diverse needs of the global community.
And one other key benefit - it could help Facebook expand into new regions. Facebook, and it's massive scale and influence - and the potential for those factors to be abused - has become a concern for various governments, particularly those who exercise a higher level of control over the media inputs of their citizens. If Facebook could show that such decisions are not coming from its management, but are from an independent, relevant panel of experts, that could ease some of those concerns, opening the doors for greater expansion.
Facebook has provided the below infographic which outlines its process thus far on the establishment of its review board.
It may not get the same level of press coverage as other changes, but this is a major move for Zuck and Co., and one which has wide-reaching implications.