The Facebook Oversight Board is a group created by Facebook to which users can appeal important company decisions. Though it is funded by a $130 million trust created by Facebook, the board says it is an independent and neutral third party. Its goal is to review moderation decisions made by the company and decide whether they were “made in accordance with its stated values.”
First proposed in a 2018 blog post by Zuckerberg, the Oversight Board is the company’s attempt to have an outside authority handle difficult decisions. It formally started deliberating in October 2020 and has also been called “Facebook’s Supreme Court,” though it has no government affiliation or legal standing. The board is currently made of 20 people from around the world who are experts in things like journalism, misinformation, freedom of speech and extremism, though only 19 are participating in this case. The original goal was to have 40 members total, and more will continue to be added.
The board was created to appease critics who thought power over the world’s largest social network and its 3.45 billion monthly users (including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) was too concentrated in a group of Facebook executives, specifically Zuckerberg. However, critics say it outsources individual decisions without creating meaningful internal change and shields Facebook from responsibility for difficult decisions.
So far the board has ruled on Facebook moderation decisions around blackface, threats of violence and covid-19 misinformation. It has overturned Facebook’s decisions six times, upheld them twice, and was unable to complete a ruling once.
Zuckerberg once wanted to sanction Trump. Then Facebook wrote rules that accommodated him.