Facebook user [Photo: Courtesy]

Facebook and Instagram users can now submit appeals on content removal to a new oversight board for independent review. In an announcement made yesterday, the 20-member board said it is ready to hear cases from users whether disputed content should be posted or taken down on the social media platforms. “The board is eager to get to work,” said the co-chair Catalina Botero-Marino.

“We won’t be able to hear every appeal, but want our decisions to have the widest possible value, and will be prioritising cases that have potential to impact many users around the world, are of critical importance to public discourse and raise questions about Facebook’s policies.” 

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The oversight board is the last point of appeal for users who have exhausted the internal Facebook mechanisms. The social media giant can itself refer cases to the board on an ongoing basis, including in emergency circumstances to determine whether content should stay or be taken down. Among the board members is Maina Kiai, former head of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and the only East African in the team.

 Maina Kiai [Photo: David Njaaga]

Board members are drawn from around the world with professional backgrounds in free expression, digital rights, online safety, journalism, academia and other related fields.

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“Content that could lead to urgent, real-world consequences will be reviewed as quickly as possible,” said Jamal Greene, the board’s other co-chair.  “The board provides a critical independent check on Facebook’s approach to moderating content on the most significant issues, but doesn’t remove the responsibility of Facebook to act first and to act fast in emergencies.” 

After selection, cases will be assigned to a five-member panel with at least one member from the region implicated in the content. No single board member will make a decision alone.  Cases will be decided upon using both Facebook’s Community Standards and Values and international human rights standards. In addition to now accepting cases, the board is able to recommend changes to the standards alongside its decisions. 

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Each case will also have a public comment period to allow third parties to share their insights with the board. “Human rights and freedom of expression will be at the core of every decision we make,” said Ms Botero-Marino.