Facebook details rules for its new 'Supreme Court' that will handle controversial posts

Key Points
  • Facebook released new governing documents for an independent oversight board that can overturn decisions by the company itself.
  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg previously likened such a board to a type of "Supreme Court" for the platform.
  • Facebook proposed the board as a way to check its decision-making as lawmakers and regulators keep a close watch on the company.
Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks to participants during the Viva Technologie show at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on May 24, 2018 in Paris, France.
Chesnot | Getty Images

Facebook on Tuesday released its plans for the new board previously likened to a "Supreme Court" that can overturn the company's own content moderation decisions.

The new "Oversight Board" will govern appeals from Facebook users and questions from the company itself. The board will eventually consist of 40 members with three-year terms drawn from a diverse array of backgrounds, according to Facebook. Panels of five members will deliberate on cases it chooses to take. A minimum of 11 members will be required for the board to function. Facebook said in a press release it plans to have the board in place and making decisions in early 2020.

Facebook plans oversight board to assist with privacy, content concerns

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg first wrote about his conception of a new body to govern the company in November of 2018 as Facebook faced mounting scrutiny over its privacy and content moderation practices. Conservative lawmakers have accused Facebook and other tech platforms of displaying ideological bias in its content removal practices. In December, The New York Times reported that Facebook's content moderators relied on inaccurate and outdated guidelines to approve and reject flagged posts.

To create a level of independence from the company, Facebook said it will establish a trust to compensate board members. The board will be able to hire staff to support its functions, Facebook executives said on a call with reporters, but in the interim, the company has weighed the possibility of lending its own staff to get the team up and running. The board's decisions will be binding except in cases when Facebook determines that implementing the finding would break the law.

The member selection and governing rules incorporate feedback from Facebook's public consultation period on its draft charter. The new body will be empowered to pass binding decisions on content moderation. The board will prioritize cases that are deemed significant based on the severity of the content, scale of distribution and public discourse that it prompted. Priority will also go to cases based on the difficulty of the questions the content raises, Facebook said. A case will be deemed difficult if Facebook's decision has sparked disagreement or the decision involves tension between different and important values, according to the company.

After a selection process that will include gathering candidates from a diverse set of backgrounds and vetting them for potential conflicts of interest, Facebook said it will extend offers to a "limited number" of candidates to become co-chairs, formally appointed by the trustees. Once the co-chairs are in place, they will help select the rest of the board members. Later, the board will lead the membership selection process itself, Facebook said.

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