A graphic depiction of a line-drawn circle encompassing circles, rectangles and a triangle.
A graphic depiction of a line-drawn circle encompassing circles, rectangles and a triangle.
A graphic depiction of a line-drawn circle encompassing circles, rectangles and a triangle.

The Oversight Board is now accepting cases

October 2020

Today we’re announcing an important milestone in the progress of the Oversight Board. From today, if your content is removed from Facebook or Instagram and you have exhausted the company’s appeal process, you can challenge this decision by appealing to the Oversight Board. Similarly, Facebook can now refer cases for a decision about whether content should remain up or come down. In the coming months you will also be able to appeal to the Board about content you want Facebook to remove.

All decisions on cases taken by the Oversight Board will be binding on the company.

How cases come to the BoardHow cases come to the Board

User Appeals: Once a Facebook or Instagram user has exhausted their eligible content appeal and it has been rejected within the platform, Facebook will issue an Oversight Board Reference ID in their Support Inbox on Facebook or Instagram’s Support Requests section, allowing them to submit a case for review on the Oversight Board website.

Beginning today, this option is rolling out and will be available to all users in the coming weeks. This phased approach is important for ensuring there are no technical issues with the new functionality available to users, and is a standard part of releasing any new product or feature. When you appeal to the Board, you will be able to include a statement explaining why you’re challenging Facebook’s decision, why you believe Facebook got the decision wrong, and sharing additional context about the post in question, including your motivation for posting.

Facebook Referrals and Expedited Hearings: Facebook can refer cases to the Board both on an ongoing basis and under exceptional circumstances, which will lead to an expedited review.

This could include many significant and difficult types of decisions, including content left up on Facebook or Instagram, as well as advertising or Groups. Significant means that the content in question involves real-world impact and issues that are severe, large-scale and/or important for public discourse. Difficult means the content raises questions about current policies or their enforcement, with strong arguments for either removing or leaving up the content under review. The Board has sole discretion to accept or reject cases that are referred through this process, apart from expedited cases which the Board will always consider.

The Oversight Board does not exist to prevent or rapidly respond to content issues in real time, and the ability of the Board to hear expedited cases does not remove responsibility from Facebook to act first and to act fast in these situations. Facebook has other partners working with them to offer a rapid response mechanism to the most urgent scenarios. The Board is committed to acting as quickly as possible in these situations, but an expedited review may still take several days. This reflects not only logistical issues such as translation requirements, but the commitment of the Board to be thorough and deliberative in its approach, not only considering information provided by Facebook but also sourced from the user and third parties. The guidance the Oversight Board provides will hopefully mean that over time Facebook’s responses will have a clearer basis in international human rights norms.

How case decisions are madeHow case decisions are made

While we cannot hear every appeal, we want our decisions to be influential and impactful beyond the individual case. We will therefore prioritize cases that have the potential to impact many users around the world, are of critical importance to public discourse, or raise important questions about Facebook’s policies. Board Members will take turns rotating on a Case Selection Committee, which will evaluate and select cases by a majority vote of the Committee.

After being selected, cases will then be assigned to a five-Member panel and will always include at least one Member from the region implicated in the content and a mix of gender representation. For each case, the Board will decide if the content violates Facebook’s Community Standards and Values and if it conforms with international human rights norms and standards.

We expect that our decisions will address a variety of freedom of expression and human rights concerns that arise from content moderation. This includes instances where the expression of some may silence or endanger others, or in turn where expression may be threatened. The complexity and real-world implications of these cases is why the Board is composed of diverse leaders and thinkers with experience in dealing with highly challenging freedom of expression and human rights issues.

The Board expects to decide on a case, and for Facebook to have acted on this decision, within a maximum of 90 days. This timeline includes time for translations and case preparation by Facebook, the user and the Oversight Board to ensure the case is properly represented.

The Oversight Board was built with transparency and independence from Facebook at its core, from the creation of a $130 million Trust that is independent from Facebook, to the crafting of a Charter and Bylaws that have put strong operational powers in the hands of the Board. We are committed to being transparent about our work and each of our case decisions will be published and archived on the Board’s website. Decisions will follow the same format, presenting the key information used by the panel to make a decision with an explanation on how the panel reached its final conclusions.

Public comment processPublic comment process

Before deliberating, each case will have a public comment period to allow third parties to share their insights and perspectives with the Board. As cases are assigned to panels, the Board will post a brief, anonymized description of the cases under review on our website. Before the Board begins deliberations on cases, individuals and organizations who wish to share their expertise will have seven days to submit input to the Board through our public comment system. You can sign up here to receive alerts when new cases are posted to the website and open for public comment.

Additionally, case panels may request information from subject-matter experts, including academics, linguists and researchers on a specific issue.

Building the Oversight BoardBuilding the Oversight Board

Since being announced in May, Board Members, supported by the staff in the Administration, have been working hard to reach this moment, as detailed previously. Building an institution equipped to make binding and independent decisions on the most challenging content issues facing the Facebook and Instagram communities is a unique challenge.

Our Members have been guided throughout by the goal of developing an institution that can make decisions in a way that is thorough, principled and globally relevant. Members have extensively studied Facebook’s and Instagram’s existing processes and practices for dealing with content issues, and trained to use the newly deployed case management tool, the technical system developed by Facebook, in consultation with the Oversight Board, to allow cases to be referred to the Board in a way that protects the privacy and security of user data. Most importantly, Members have worked together to determine how we will select and decide cases, which is key to building an effective institution that can serve users and hold Facebook to account over the long term.

Another important step in developing the institution is the appointment of the chairperson for the Trust, Paul G. Haaga, Jr. Trustees are responsible for ensuring that the Board is operating according to its purpose and governing documents, and do not have a role in reviewing cases or the Board’s exercise of its independent judgment on content issues. Mr. Haaga brings experience as a manager and trustee of nonprofit and for-profit organizations of various sizes, including the Capital Research and Management Company, National Public Radio and Princeton University. Additional Trustees are expected to be named over the coming weeks.

What's nextWhat's next

Over the coming weeks we will be sharing details on the first cases that the Board is considering, and also opening the public comment process for third parties to share relevant views and expertise to support the Board’s deliberation process. We will then be sharing our first case decisions.

We know we will not be able to solve all content problems on Facebook and Instagram. The Oversight Board was not created to be a quickfire or all-encompassing solution, but to offer a critical independent check on Facebook’s approach to moderating some of the most significant content issues. Today is an important milestone on the path to achieving this.

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