A person scrutinizing a sphere she’s holding in her hand, while shapes and clouds float around her.
A person scrutinizing a sphere she’s holding in her hand, while shapes and clouds float around her.
A person scrutinizing a sphere she’s holding in her hand, while shapes and clouds float around her.

Announcing the Oversight Board’s first cases and appointment of trustees


December 2020

Today, the Oversight Board is announcing the first cases it will be deliberating and the opening of the public comment process.

The Board is also announcing the appointment of five new trustees.

Case selectionCase selection

More than 20,000 cases were referred to the Oversight Board following the opening of user appeals in October 2020. As the Board cannot hear every appeal, we are prioritizing cases that have the potential to affect lots of users around the world, are of critical importance to public discourse or raise important questions about Facebook's policies.

Six cases have now been selected by the Board, including five user appeals and one case referred by Facebook. These cases are:

2020-001-FB-UA

Case referred by user

A user posted a screenshot of two tweets by former Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in which the former Prime Minister stated that “Muslims have a right to be angry and kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past” and “[b]ut by and large the Muslims have not applied the “eye for an eye” law. Muslims don’t. The French shouldn’t. Instead the French should teach their people to respect other people’s feelings.” The user did not add a caption alongside the screenshots. Facebook removed the post for violating its policy on Hate Speech. The user indicated in their appeal to the Oversight Board that they wanted to raise awareness of the former Prime Minister’s “horrible words”.

Update (03/12/20): Case 2020-001-FB-UA is no longer available for review by the Board as a result of user action. This case concerned a comment on a post, with the user who made the comment appealing Facebook’s decision to remove it. However, the post itself, which remained on the platform, has subsequently been deleted by the user who posted it. As a result, both the post and comment have been removed from the platform. A new case has been selected by the Board. Further details here.

2020-002-FB-UA

Case referred by user

Submit public comment here

A user posted two well-known photos of a deceased child lying fully clothed on a beach at the water’s edge. The accompanying text (in Burmese) asks why there is no retaliation against China for its treatment of Uyghur Muslims, in contrast to the recent killings in France relating to cartoons. The post also refers to the Syrian refugee crisis. Facebook removed the content for violating its Hate Speech policy. The user indicated in their appeal to the Oversight Board that the post was meant to disagree with people who think the killer is right and to emphasize that human lives matter more than religious ideologies.

2020-003-FB-UA

Case referred by user

Submit public comment here

A user posted alleged historical photos showing churches in Baku, Azerbaijan, with accompanying text stating that Baku was built by Armenians and asking where the churches have gone. The user stated that Armenians are restoring mosques on their land because it is part of their history. The user said that the "т.а.з.и.к.и" are destroying churches and have no history. The user stated they are against “Azerbaijani aggression” and “vandalism”. The content was removed for violating Facebook’s Hate Speech policy. The user indicated in their appeal to the Oversight Board that their intention was to demonstrate the destruction of cultural and religious monuments.

2020-004-IG-UA

Case referred by user

Submit public comment here

A user in Brazil posted a picture to Instagram with a title in Portuguese indicating that it was to raise awareness of signs of breast cancer. Eight photographs within the picture showed breast cancer symptoms with corresponding explanations of the symptoms underneath. Five of the photographs included visible and uncovered female nipples. The remaining three photographs included female breasts, with the nipples either out of shot, or covered by a hand. Facebook removed the post for violating its policy on Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity. The post has a pink background, and the user indicated in a statement to the Oversight Board that it was shared as part of the national “Pink October” campaign for the prevention of breast cancer.

2020-005-FB-UA

Case referred by user

Submit public comment here

A user in the US was prompted by Facebook’s “On This Day” function to reshare a “Memory” in the form of a post the user made two years ago. The user reshared the content. The post (in English) is an alleged quote from Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, on the need to appeal to emotions and instincts, instead of intellect and on the unimportance of truth. Facebook removed the content for violating its policy on Dangerous Individuals and Organizations. The user indicated in their appeal to the Oversight Board that the quote is important as the user considers the current US presidency to be following a fascist model.

2020-006-FB-FBR

Case referred by Facebook

Submit public comment here

A user posted a video and accompanying text within a Facebook group related to COVID-19. In the video and text, there is a description of an alleged scandal about the Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament (the French agency responsible for regulating health products) purportedly refusing authorization for use of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin against COVID-19, but authorizing promotional mail for remdesivir. The user criticizes the lack of a health strategy in France and states that “[Didier] Raoult’s cure” is being used elsewhere to save lives. The video was viewed approximately 50,000 times and shared under 1,000 times. Facebook removed the content for violating its policy on Violence and Incitement, and in its referral indicated to the Oversight Board that this case presents an example of the challenges faced when addressing the risk of offline harm that can be caused by misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The case descriptions presented here have been designed to protect the anonymity of those involved, including by removing any personally identifiable information.

Each of the cases announced today has been assigned to five-member panels, including at least one member from the region implicated in the content. The Board expects to decide on each case, and for Facebook to have acted on this decision, within 90 days. This timeline includes time for translations and case preparation by Facebook, the user, and the Oversight Board to ensure that the case is represented properly.

Once the Board has reached a decision on these cases, Facebook will be required to implement our decisions, as well as publicly respond to any additional policy recommendations the Board makes.

You can learn more about the process for selecting, deliberating and deciding cases here.

Public comments

An important part of the Board’s process for reviewing cases is gathering additional insights and expertise from individuals and organizations who may be able to help inform decisions. The Board is committed to bringing diverse perspectives from third parties into the case review process. To that end, we have established a public comment process to invite subject matter experts and other interested groups to share relevant research and information that may help the Oversight Board deliberate specific cases. This input will allow Board Members to tap into more knowledge, expertise and context as cases will cover a variety of issues and geographies.

If you or your organization feel you can contribute valuable perspectives that can help with reaching decisions on the cases listed above, you can submit your contributions using the links above.

You can also sign up here to receive email updates on future cases and the opening of the public comment process for these.

The public comment window for the cases announced today is open for 7 days, closing at 8am Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday, December 8 2020.

Note that the case descriptions presented today are based on the information provided to the Board by users and Facebook as part of the appeals process, and are being posted before panels begin deliberation to provide time for public comment. As such, they reflect neither the Board’s assessment of the case, nor the full array of policy issues that a panel might consider to be implicated by the case. A panel may decide to post additional information relating to the case, with an updated deadline for submission of comments.

Appointment of TrusteesAppointment of Trustees

Following our announcement last month of the appointment of Paul G. Haaga, Jr. as chairperson for the Oversight Board Trust, today we are also announcing the appointment of five additional trustees:

  • Kristina Arriaga is a globally recognized advocate for freedom of expression, with a focus on freedom of religion and belief. Kristina is president of the advisory firm Intrinsic.
  • Cherine Chalaby is an expert on internet governance, international finance and technology, with extensive board experience. As Chairman of ICANN, he led development of the organization’s five-year strategic plan for 2021 to 2025.
  • Wanda Felton has over 30 years of experience in the financial services industry, including serving as Vice Chair of the Board and First Vice President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.
  • Kate O'Regan is a former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and commissioner of the Khayelitsha Commission. She is the inaugural director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford.
  • Robert Post is an American legal scholar and Professor of Law at Yale Law School, where he formerly served as Dean. He is a leading scholar of the First Amendment and freedom of speech.

As well as individual trustees, the Oversight Board Trust also has a corporate trustee, Brown Brothers Harriman, that was announced in December 2019.

The Oversight Board is comprised of the three interlocking elements: Board Members, the Trust, and the Administration. The roles and responsibilities of these three elements ensure mutual accountability in realising the Board’s purpose. Trustees are responsible for safeguarding the independence of the Board and for ensuring that the Board operates effectively in fulfilling its stated purpose. The Trustees oversee the financing of Oversight Board Members and the financing and activities of the Oversight Board Administration, which consists of the team of full-time staff who assist Board Members with research, case selection and preparation and communication of case decisions. Trustees do not have any role in selecting or deciding cases, responsibilities which sit entirely with Board Members.

The members of the Oversight Board welcome the new trustees to their roles and look forward to working with this impressive and diverse team to build the Board into a long-term global success.

What's nextWhat's next

Today marks an important next step for the Board.

Members will be focused over the coming weeks on deliberating and deciding the first cases. We will be publishing case decisions on the website here and you can sign up to receive notifications for these here.

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