The Oversight Board, constituted last year to examine content takedowns on Facebook and Instagram, said Tuesday it will begin accepting cases from users of the social networks who believe the company wrongfully allowed harmful content to remain on its platform.
This new capability, long-sought by advocates of independent content moderation, represents an important step toward delivering a more principled and transparent model of content moderation.
The Oversight Board, which went live in October last year, consists of independent members from around the world, makes binding decisions on what content Facebook and Instagram should allow or remove, based on respect for freedom of expression and human rights.
“Enabling users to appeal content they want to see removed from Facebook is a significant expansion of the Oversight Board’s capabilities” said Thomas Hughes, Director of the Oversight Board Administration. “The Board was created to ensure that fewer decisions about highly significant content issues be taken by Facebook alone, and that better decisions can be delivered through an independent and transparent process that works to safeguard human rights and freedom of expression. Today’s announcement is another step towards realizing this.”
Since October 2020, users have been able to appeal to the Oversight Board about their own content being removed. The Oversight Board’s most recent decision was issued to Facebook Tuesday, on a case from the Netherlands, where the company removed a video showing a young child meeting adults with their faces painted black, dressed to portray “Zwarte Piet” – also referred to as “Black Pete.” The Oversight Board upheld Facebook’s decision after a majority found sufficient evidence of harm to justify the removal. They argued the content included caricatures which are linked to racist stereotypes and are considered by parts of Dutch society to sustain systemic racism in the Netherlands.
In January, the Board accepted a case referral from Facebook to examine their decision to indefinitely suspend former US President Donald Trump’s access to post content on Facebook and Instagram.
Since the Board became operational, Facebook has worked to design, build and test the technical functionality to enable people to appeal to remove content posted by a third-party, whilst ensuring their privacy is protected. Starting Tuesday, with a wider roll out over the coming weeks, after an individual has exhausted Facebook’s appeals process, they will receive an Oversight Board Reference ID and can formally appeal for independent review.
The content eligible for review includes posts, status updates, photos, videos, comments, and shares. As content will be live on Facebook and Instagram, many people may report the same piece of content. In these cases, multiple user appeals will be gathered into a single case file for the Board, providing greater context of the impact of the content. As with appeals on content that users want restored to Facebook, users may appeal to the Oversight Board once they have exhausted the appeals process with the company.