Facebook's system of moderation and censorship and the resulting “rules and standards” may have become too complicated for the company itself to understand and live up to.
Various initiatives, designed to appease critics, such as setting up the Oversight Board, don't look to be very helpful, either. As reports show, critics have not been appeased; and even though the Board's job is to review appeals on previous decisions to remove content, its work so far does not promise to bring much clarity into the process, or come up with decisions that will do anything but further deepen political and ideological divides on the platform, and accusations of bias.
Facebook's Board is chastised here for taking on only one complaint from US users, when these websites believe that the election year was particularly rife with misinformation and conspiracies shared on the platform – and when Facebook appears to agree, having flagged as many as 180 million posts as false since March alone.
Out of all the stories of censorship we've covered this year and that Facebook users have had to put up with, Facebook's Oversight Board had many appeals to choose from with many claims of anti-conservative bias leveled against the platform.
Yet, the case it chose to take on was an incident where a criticism of President Donald Trump was censored.
The single case, that concerns a user appealing a ban on a reshared post that included a quote by Nazi Germany's propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, is not as clear cut as Facebook's censors or algorithms thought it was.
What they thought was that the quote was simply glorifying Nazis and Goebbels, but in their “defense,” the user's appeal said the actual goal was to equate US President Trump's policies with that of fascists. And the user clearly expects this kind of interpretation to be acceptable to Facebook.
The Oversight Board is yet to make a decision on this and a number of other appeals made by international users, but whatever “the rulings” happen to be – as far as Facebook's credibility goes, it's a clear no-win situation.
The Oversight Board doesn't create Facebook's policy but is supposed to give the last word on content censorship. The decisions on the first cases should be made within 90 days.