If the idea of a Supreme Court for a social network leaves you with a lot of questions, well, you’re not the only one. Below, some frequent questions and answers about the board to help you get up to speed.
Facebook later referred the case to its independent Oversight Board.
What did the board decide?
The board upheld Facebook’s decision to suspend Trump’s accounts, writing in its decision that two posts on Jan. 6 from the former President “severely violated Facebook’s Community Standards and Instagram’s Community Guidelines,” which prohibit posts that praise of people engaged in violence.
However, the board ruled that Facebook’s imposition of an “indefinite” suspension was inappropriate, as “indefinite suspensions” are not described as a potential outcome in Facebook’s content policies. The board gave Facebook six months to reevaluate the action taken on Trump’s account and to apply some consequence consistent with its own rules.
Facebook Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications Nick Clegg said in a statement after the ruling that Facebook will “consider the board’s decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate.”
So what exactly is the Facebook Oversight Board?
The board is an independent, court-like entity for appealing content decisions on Facebook-owned platforms. It’s made up of 20 experts in areas like free expression, human rights, and journalism.
Content moderation decisions — for instance, removing or not removing a particular post — made by Facebook and Instagram can be appealed to the board once users have gone all the way through the company’s internal review process. Facebook says that decisions made by the board are final.
Who is on the board?
But the board just does whatever Facebook wants, right?
Suzanne Nossel, a Facebook Oversight Board member and CEO of the free expression organization PEN America, told CNN Business last week, “Obviously, Facebook has its own motives in this. Let’s be clear. They’re a profit-making enterprise. They wouldn’t have done this if they didn’t think it was good for business. They have taken some steps in putting money in a trust and creating an independent set of trustees that oversee the board itself. And so there are some efforts to make it genuinely independent.”
“Whether those go far enough, whether circumstances arise that test or challenge those parameters, we’ll have to see, but I think it’s crucial, if the board is going to play any kind of useful role, that that independence be absolutely respected,” she added.
Some — perhaps many — decisions the board makes may ultimately not be what Facebook would want, or might put the company in some uncomfortable positions. But however the board rules, Facebook does theoretically get the benefit of some cover on the most difficult content questions. The board’s decision on Trump, however, didn’t give the company as much cover as it might have wanted.
Does Facebook have to do what the board says?
What cases has the board taken on before this?
In its first set of rulings in January, the board overturned some decisions Facebook had made.
Facebook removed the post due to its hate speech policies. The board overturned that decision.
In an explanation of the decision posted to its wsite, the board said, “[W]hile the post might be considered pejorative or offensive towards Muslims, it did not advocate hatred or intentionally incite any form of imminent harm. As such, the Board does not consider its removal to be necessary to protect the rights of others.”
— Brian Fung and Kaya Yurieff contributed reporting.