(Reuters) – Facebook’s long-belated independent oversight body plans to launch in mid to late October, just before the US presidential election in November. However, a Facebook spokesman said Thursday the panel was unlikely to handle election-related cases.
The board, created by Facebook in response to criticism of its handling of problematic content, can first review decisions about removing posts from Facebook and Instagram and recommend policy changes.
Alan Rusbridger, a member of the supervisory board, told Reuters in an interview this week that the board is now aiming for a start in October. A board spokesman said the late start originally planned for last year had been slowed down further by the coronavirus pandemic.
Potential cases would come to the board from users who have exhausted the appeal process or are referred from Facebook. Decision making and implementation of decisions would take up to 90 days, although Facebook could require it to be expedited within 30 days.
The Facebook spokesperson said it was unlikely, given that timeframe, that election-related cases would go through the process.
Rusbridger also told Reuters that cases involving President Donald Trump’s positions were not among the cases the board had investigated in trial runs.
“We didn’t do a Trump case,” said Rusbridger, former editor-in-chief of the Guardian newspaper. “We did a nudity case; We made a blasphemy case. “
Facebook has faced setbacks from employees in recent months because it had decided not to take any action on posts from Trump containing misleading claims about mail-in votes and inflammatory language about anti-racism protests. In contrast, its smaller rival Twitter added fact-checking labels and warnings to the same posts.
Tech Watchdog Accountable Tech, which launched a campaign urging board members to demand “real authority” or resign, said in a statement Thursday that the launch was “too late to address Facebook’s shortcomings ahead of the elections.” “.
The board initially only looks at complaints about posts that Facebook has removed, not content that the company is abandoning. Some experts say this means that it will be of little help in addressing issues like misinformation and hate speech.
Initially, only individual posts are dealt with, not Facebook ads or groups.
Rusbridger said the board has not yet made any changes to its remit.
Rusbridger declined to comment on Facebook’s policy of exempting politicians’ speech and advertising from its third-party fact-checking program, but said, “I can’t see we don’t get a case.”
Since the first 20 board members were announced in May, they have held virtual meetings to discuss issues such as case selection and how to deal with minority opinions, Rusbridger said.
Rusbridger said the board would look for “greater resonance” cases, although precedents set by decisions about individual bodies would not be binding in future cases.
Facebook can also ask the board for policy recommendations, but doesn’t have to respond, a framework that has been criticized by some US Democratic lawmakers.
The board, which includes a former Danish Prime Minister, a Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, legal experts and human rights activists from around the world, is expected to grow to a group of 40 members.
Rusbridger said the board had considered how it would select these candidates but had not selected any other members yet.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford, editing by Peter Graff, Tom Brown, and Steve Orlofsky.)