Facebook’s new oversight board could overturn Mark Zuckerberg’s decisions

Facebook on Tuesday released more details about its Supreme Court for content decisions — an oversight board that would have the ability to overrule CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

In blog post that was updated Tuesday, Brent Harris, Director of Governance and Global Affairs at Facebook, wrote that the new Independent Oversight Board will review appeals to its policy decisions and is meant to be completely separate from Facebook leadership.

The blog post included a letter from Zuckerberg, saying, “If someone disagrees with a decision we’ve made, they can appeal to us first, and soon they will be able to further appeal to this independent board. The board’s decision will be binding, even if I or anyone at Facebook disagrees with it. The board will use our values to inform its decisions and explain its reasoning openly and in a way that protects people’s privacy.” 

The board will begin to deliberate its first cases starting early next year. These would include issues relating to taking down content and recommendations for further changes. 

There will be 40 members on the Oversight Board who will serve three-year terms, but the catch is that Facebook is choosing the initial founding members, who will then select additional members of the Board. 

The Oversight Board is essentially creating a mini-judicial branch within Facebook’s empire. It’s meant to create a checks and balances system for Facebook, with the Oversight Board being at the top of the decision-making process, with the Board staff, and Facebook itself following behind. A separate post published Tuesday explains the board membership selection process.

“The Oversight Board will make Facebook more accountable and improve our decision-making. This charter is a critical step towards what we hope will become a model for our industry,” said Nick Clegg, the Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook, in Tuesday’s post. 

The creation of the Oversight Board was part of a historic $5 billion settlement between the social media giant and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) back in July. As part of the settlement, Facebook was required to modify its corporate structure to hold the company accountable for decisions made about users’ privacy. 

All this stems from Facebook’s mishandling of its users’ private data, including using deceptive practices to collect phone numbers, sharing user data with third-party app developers, and misrepresenting users’ ability to control the use of facial recognition technology. 

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