Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday that the social media giant is creating an oversight board that will be empowered to make binding decisions about whether accounts are banned from the platform. The decision comes weeks after Facebook banned a number of far-right and extremists on the platform, including Milo Yiannopoulos, Alex Jones, and Louis Farrakhan.
The oversight board will be the long-awaited “Supreme Court” of Facebook that Zuckerberg first mentioned last year. If someone is banned from Facebook and decides to appeal the decision, it may eventually make its way to the content council, which will ultimately decide whether the account or posted content can stay on the platform.
“We know that our systems can feel opaque, and people should have a way to hold us accountable and make sure that we’re enforcing our standards fairly,” Zuckerberg said on a conference call with reporters. “This independent oversight board will look at some of our hardest casts and the decisions it makes will be binding. That means that even if our teams, or even if I disagree with its decisions, we won’t be able to overturn them.”
Zuckerberg did not give a timeline for when the council will be rolled out or who will be on it, but the idea, first floated last year, has been controversial: some experts see it as a way for Facebook to distance itself from the often politically difficult decisions it has to make about banning content. For example, if the content council decided that InfoWars’s Alex Jones could stay on the platform, Facebook can say that an oversight board made the decision; if it decided to ban him, Facebook can say to conservatives that, well, an oversight board made the decision.
We still don't know exactly how the council will work, who will be on it, and how decisions will ultimately filter up to it, but Facebook announced last month that it will be taking public proposals and input on the subject.
Thursday, Facebook released an update on its content moderation practices, which included a new section for appeal results. According to Facebook's data, millions of pieces of content are restored upon repeal. It stands to reason, then, that the oversight board will be used only in high profile or high stakes circumstances.
Update: This post has been updated with additional context about the oversight board, and has also been updated to reflect that Facebook has not officially named the board.