GPD responds to Facebook consultation on oversight model for content decisions

23 May 2019

GPD has responded to a Facebook consultation on its proposed oversight model for handling content-related decisions.

Facebook first announced its decision to establish an Oversight Board at the end of 2018. Earlier this year it published a draft Charter with further details, along with a request for feedback on a few specific questions (which GPD responded to here). The current consultation is more wide-ranging, asking for extensive, detailed input on almost every aspect of the Board’s operation: including its membership, the way it will make decisions, and its governance and accountability.

Some of the key points from GPD’s submission:

MEMBERSHIP

  • Facebook needs to ensure the Board has legitimacy from the outset. The current plan is for Facebook to select the first group of Board members without any external consultation. We are concerned this could create a perception of bias. Instead, we recommend that it establishes a selection committee which includes independent stakeholders, as well as representatives of Facebook.
  • Any decisions on the future composition of Board should be made through an open call, supported by the Board’s secretariat.

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DECISIONS

  • The Board should be able to influence Facebook’s rules and policies. For example, when a specific decision poses a challenge to the platform’s existing policies, the Board should be able to request a change in those policies. But the Board should also be empowered to proactively monitor Facebook’s policies and their enforcement, and make recommendations about any policy changes as and when it feels necessary.
  • Individual users should be able to request the review of a decision. The individual doing so would be required to make a case for the necessity of a review, including the evidence of harm.
  • The Board’s decisions should be as consistent as possible. Any decision made on a particular piece of content should generally serve as a precedent when evaluating similar or identical pieces of content.
  • The Board should be kept informed of how its decisions are being implemented. Following each decision, Facebook should publish a response setting out what steps it plans to take to implement the Board’s decision, and inform the Board once those steps have been taken. The Board should have the power to review that implementation process and, if it considers that it has not addressed the problems identified in its decision, make this clear to Facebook. 
  • The final Charter should strongly emphasise the importance of the right to freedom of expression, and include an acknowledgment of Facebook’s responsibility—under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights—to respect that right.

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GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY

  • Facebook should pay the costs of compensating the Board members and its supporting staff.
  • The operations of the Board should be as transparent as possible—with, for example, any internal procedural rules made public, and a report published annually on the Board’s operations over the previous year.
  • The Board should publish an annual report setting out its work over the previous year. This report should include information on the decisions reached and whether they have been fully implemented. It should also include information on any broader recommendations made, and Facebook’s response to them. The report could also include analysis and reflections on broader trends and issues.

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The consultation is still open for input here. While there is no detailed timeline for the process, Facebook have stated that they will publish a report in June “summarizing what we’ve learned through these submissions and in the broader conversations we’re having”.

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