An Update on the Oversight Board’s Progress

This update shares our progress in setting up the Oversight Board, and the pathway towards the Board hearing its first case over the coming months.

The events in the United States have been deeply painful to watch for all our Members. As an organization with a global scope and focus on free expression and human rights, we recognize that many communities around the world are confronting other crises at this moment, but it is impossible to ignore what is happening on the streets of US cities.

The Oversight Board was created to make binding and independent decisions on the most challenging content issues on Facebook and Instagram. As such, how Facebook treats posts from public figures that may violate their community standards are within the scope of the Board, and are the type of highly challenging cases that the Board expects to consider when we begin operating in the coming months.

When we begin hearing cases later this year, users will be able to appeal to the Board in cases where Facebook has removed their content. Soon after, we also expect the technical infrastructure to be in place to review appeals from users who want Facebook to remove content. We can also review content decisions referred to us by Facebook, as well as issue policy recommendations to the company.

As an institution that announced our first members less than a month ago, and which will not be operational until later this year, we are not in an immediate position to make decisions on issues like those we see unfolding today. As a deliberative body, we also do not expect to regularly weigh in on issuing opinions about global events – our focus is on making decisions about content that is on Facebook and Instagram. We are working hard to build a strong institution that is designed to operate and deliver results over the long term. For a Board that will consider deeply challenging questions, and that will serve a global community, we want to move as quickly as possible while also recognizing the care with which this institution must be crafted.

At a moment when issues of free expression and human rights are so central to events in the United States, this only emphasizes the value of having a truly independent oversight body for Facebook. We are acutely aware of our responsibility to ensure the Board is properly set up and the urgency of achieving this as soon as possible.

Supporting Members to Begin Their Work

An onboarding and training program for Board Members is currently underway. The initial focus has been on providing each Member with a detailed understanding of the Board’s policies, procedures and governance structure. Members are currently studying Facebook’s policy development processes and enforcement frameworks, as well as the types of content decisions that are in scope for the Board.

Over the coming weeks Members will focus on having the Board develop their deliberation processes, define their operating procedures for selecting and hearing cases, develop their shared approach to international human rights issues, consider what supporting information they might require and how to source it, practice deliberating on cases together, and refine how they want to structure and communicate decisions. These are some of the most critical elements in standing up a new institution that can effectively make decisions and hold Facebook to account, and why this process must be thorough.

The final phase will be training on the Case Management Tool created by Facebook to facilitate the Board’s work. Developing this tool involves careful technical work to ensure data is only shared with the Board in a way that protects the privacy and security of user data. Following completion of the tool, a series of readiness exercises will take place to ensure the Board is fully prepared to hear cases.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Board has been felt across many areas of activity. Without meeting in person, the Board’s orientation and learning program is being conducted virtually over several weeks. The onboarding program has been based around the demanding agendas of Members, across different time zones.

Building the Oversight Board Administration

The Administration also continues to make progress on building an institution to support Board Members, with a focus on recruiting staff, policy development, and establishing offices in the US and UK. Building a team to ensure the Board can fully undertake its duties is a high priority and, as with the Board Members, requires a thorough program of learning and skills development.

Our focus is on building a global and diverse workforce and thus far we have received almost 3,000 applications for the 15 open vacancies across various teams. We expect to add additional roles over the coming weeks.

Finally, we have been working to register and set up our offices in the US and UK. The London office will be ready for staff over the coming weeks, whilst our offices in San Francisco and Washington D.C. will be ready in the coming months.

Reaffirming Our Commitment to Users and Society

This is a snapshot of the intense work to prepare the Oversight Board to begin making decisions on cases, and we expect to share further updates as we make progress. Members are united in wanting to get to work as soon as possible.

When the Board goes operational, we will not shy away from tough decisions and intend to act without consideration of Facebook’s economic, political or reputational interests. We are not here to defend Facebook and will be transparent in the decisions we make and the changes we call on the company to make to protect free expression, users and society.

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