Much ado about nothing. Earlier this summer, there was tremendous excitement about the new Facebook Oversight Board, which in the eyes of many, was set to be the savior of Facebook. And indeed, all of humanity. The fact that we also have an Indian on the Board just made it even more exciting for many, particularly those looking in from the outside. But as it turns out, the Facebook Oversight Board is presently as limp as it possibly could have been. So much so, it isn’t ready to get to work anytime soon, and in fact won’t be ready for work until “late Fall”. We still do not have a specific timeline. And from what we can now see, it will be significant less powerful than what it possibly could have been, to actually help Facebook clean up a lot of the content issues it faces. The reasons for this delay are unclear at this time.
Let us hear it from the the Board itself. “We understand many people are eager for the Board to officially begin our task of providing independent oversight of Facebook’s content decisions. We share this urgency, but the Board won’t be operational until late Fall,” says the official Facebook Oversight Board account on Twitter. If we are to think about it, there really isn’t much happening over the next few months which might have required someone to keep an eye on the racism, discrimination, bullying, misinformation and even potentially misleading political advertising on the social media platform. Except for the #BlackLivesMatter protests, the Coronavirus pandemic and the upcoming US Presidential Elections, to name a few. Though the board does take cognizance of the fact and says, “Many of the issues of concern today – are within the Board’s scope and we are committed to focusing on these matters as soon as we are operational.”
Wait, there’s more as well. The Facebook Oversight Board’s own description of what they will do, when they eventually get to work, probably means it will not be the savior of humanity and social media as many had predicted initially. “We don’t expect the Board to regularly share opinions outside of our decisions on content and policy recommendations to Facebook. Our focus is on building a strong institution that will deliver concrete results over the long-term,” they say. This means the board will focus on actual disputed content takedowns, and not disputed content itself. They will also be sharing advisory guidance with Facebook.
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This comes at a time when popular global brands including Ben & Jerry’s, Starbucks, Coca Cola, Unilever, Diageo, Honda, Levi’s, Mozilla, Pepsi, The North Face, The Hershey Company, Viber and Verizon have pulled all advertising money from Facebook and other social media platforms to protest as part of the Stop Hate For Profit campaign. “oter misinformation may be a bit harder to spread the day of the election (but still will run rampant the rest of the time). And posts that call for violence will still be allowed if they come from someone “newsworthy” but they will now be labeled. None of this will be vetted or verified - or make a dent in the problem on the largest social media platform on the plane,” the campaign had said in an official statement at the time.
We don’t expect the Board to regularly share opinions outside of our decisions on content and policy recommendations to Facebook. Our focus is on building a strong institution that will deliver concrete results over the long-term.— Oversight Board (@OversightBoard) July 7, 2020