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What the Facebook Oversight Board means for human rights, and where we go from here

From confronting U.S. President Trump’s use of social media to promote violence amid ongoing protests, to the COVID-19 “infodemic” spreading false health advice, content governance issues are dominating headlines. It’s a hotly debated topic with severe impacts for freedom of expression and online safety, especially for individuals already at heightened risk.  

Both governments and private companies play an important role in deciding what content we can share online, and Access Now is continuously engaging with decision makers to put human rights at the center of content governance policies and practices. 

Last month, Facebook — the world’s largest social media platform, with more than 2.6 billion active users around the world — announced the first 20 members of its Oversight Board, an initiative Mark Zuckerberg first hinted at in April 2018. The Board is an important development that will have significant implications for how Facebook — and others who may follow suit — make decisions about what can be shared on its platform. It is a much awaited opportunity for independent appeal for some content takedown decisions the company makes based on its terms of service that can have a significant impact on online discourse. 

The announcement comes at a time when there is unprecedented public pressure on social media platforms around how they moderate content. Governments are also eager to regulate this and other aspects of social media, even in ways that are in direct conflict with fundamental rights, as shown by what we are seeing now in the United States

We participated in the initial consultations about the Board, and now we are releasing our discussion paper “What the Facebook Oversight Board means for human rights, and where we go from here” where we take a high-level look at this first iteration of the Board, its potential for impact, and challenges that lie ahead. The paper places the Board in context, and highlights the importance of navigating its relationship with regulatory frameworks and Facebook’s overall business model. Finally, we identify the immediate next steps Facebook should take to safeguard freedom of expression and other human rights.

Access Now released its comprehensive content governance guide for lawmakers in March and followed up with more specific recommendations for the COVID-19 context in April.

Read our full discussion paper, “What the Facebook Oversight Board means for human rights, and where we go from here“.