Facebook is pushing ahead with its plan to build a supreme court-like body to oversee content moderation on its social network.
On Tuesday, the Silicon Valley tech giant released an updated version of the charter that will govern its "Oversight Board," following months of consultation. The nominally independent body will have the power to make binding decisions about what is allowed on Facebook, will have up to 40 members, and will be funded by a trust that sits separately from Facebook.
The plans for a new Oversight Board come amid intense scrutiny of Facebook and other social media companies over their content moderation policies. Debate has raged as to whether the unprecedented size and influence of social media has given private companies too much power to unilaterally police speech online, and Facebook's response has been to propose an Oversight Board — a quasi-judicial body that will oversee its moderation apparatus, hear appeals, and make rulings that will govern the company's approach on the issue.
On a call with reporters Tuesday, Facebook executives said the board's decisions will be binding, even if Facebook's own leadership disagrees with them, unless enforcing these decisions would break the law.
The board members and their supporting staff members will be funded by a new and separate trust, which will in turn be funded by Facebook. As such, it remains to be seen whether in practice the board will be viewed as sufficiently independent from Facebook and its influence.
In a blog post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said: "The board will be an advocate for our community — supporting people's right to free expression, and making sure we fulfill our responsibility to keep people safe. As an independent organization, we hope it gives people confidence that their views will be heard, and that Facebook doesn't have the ultimate power over their expression. Just as our Board of Directors keeps Facebook accountable to our shareholders, we believe the Oversight Board can do the same for our community.
"In this charter, Facebook is making several commitments to the board. We're committing to implement the board's content decisions and taking action regarding its advisory opinions on our policies. We're committing to preserving and protecting the board's ability to exercise its independent judgement. And we're committing to providing the board with the information and resources it needs to make informed decisions."
The 34-year-old billionaire chief executive also suggested that in the future, it could potentially help oversee content moderation at other tech companies as well.
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