Big social media companies are facing worldwide criticism for the way they handle the policing of their contents, and questions are arising on whether these private entities should be granted the power to control what users can and cannot see on social networks.
Many argue that cultural and political biases, shared by the companies employees and intrinsic in human nature, could have been baked into the algorithms making them unfair hence unapt to fairly police content.
Lawmakers and regulators speculate on the idea of dividing these platforms into smaller sections, in order to limit their power and reach. Facebook is a tempting candidate, after having been used for dark deeds such as political interferences and questionable personal data transfers, such as in the infamous Cambridge Analytica case that played an apparently determining role in the 2016 elections.
Facebook’s countermove was to hire a massive workforce of moderators – mostly belonging to third-party companies – to filter and remove unwanted content. According to the company, by the end of 2018 there where 15,000 content reviewers worldwide.
The past November, Mark Zuckerberg declared that Facebook would also implement, before the end of 2019, an external independent oversight board to help content moderation decisions. According to Facebook’s CEO, the board will be “a new way for people to appeal content decisions to an independent body, whose decisions would be transparent and binding” based on the idea that “Facebook should not make so many important decisions about free expression and safety on its own.”
Facebook has been working hard during the year and held several roundtables and focus groups all over the world to get suggestions on how this whole process should work. It also released a draft charter for the oversight board, however, it is still unclear who will sit on the board, how the board members will be chosen, and what criteria will be used to decide what goes and what stays on the platform.
The idea for an independent oversight board came from an outsider, Law professor Noah Feldman of Harvard, who is masterminding Facebook’s new plan. A reporter from Fast Company conducted a long interview with the Law professor exploring the details of his plan and many of the problems he is going to face. The interview is reported in its entirety on FastCompay.com.