Facebook has announced who will sit on an independent board, set up to have the final say on which contentious content should be deleted.
Former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt will co-chair the panel with three others.
The panel said they would judge some of the “most difficult cases”.
One expert said it was a bold experiment, but others were more cynical about how much difference they would make.
In a blog announcing the supervisory board, Facebook says it “represents a new content moderation model.”
Initially made up of 16 members, there are plans to expand the numbers to 40. He will start hearing cases later this year.
Initially, it will be a matter of deliberating on the contents that individuals believe have been removed erroneously but, in the following months, it will also examine the appeals of users who want Facebook to remove the contents.
Panel members will also review the content they refer to directly from Facebook and will be able to make policy recommendations based on its decisions.
All decisions will be made public.
“The cases we choose to listen to could be controversial and we will not please everyone with our decisions. Facebook and Instagram users come from every corner of the world and the social or cultural context in which the contents are published is important. We are looking forward to passionate discussions among the members, “said the panel.
Co-President Michael McConnell, a former US federal judge, said the new method of evaluating content was an experiment and that errors would likely have been made, but he hoped it would bring a “higher degree of political neutrality” on the platform. One of its main goals would be that Facebook “won’t decide the election,” he said.
But he added that the council would not be able to “wipe out the Internet police” and make quick decisions.
Instead, it would focus on cases involving a large number of users and on those that affect public discourse or raise specific questions about Facebook’s policy.
Members are a mix of journalists, judges, digital rights activists and former government advisers from around the world, including:
- Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei – a human rights advocate who works on women’s rights and media freedom across Africa
- Evelyn Aswad – a law professor who served as a senior attorney for the U.S. state department
- Nighat Dad – a digital rights defender, based in Pakistan
- Alan Rusbridger – former editor-in-chief of The Guardian newspaper
- Emi Palmor – former director general of the Israeli ministry of justice
- Ronaldo Lemos, a lawyer who co-created a national Internet rights law in Brazil
Dr Bernie Hogan of the Oxford Internet Institute was not convinced that her members would exercise real power.
“Basically, Facebook is a company. Its governance facade is admirable and thorough, but the dollar doesn’t stop with a constitution, citizenship or human rights. It stops with Mark Zuckerberg and his vision for the future.”
Mark Stephens, partner of the law firm Howard Kennedy, was more optimistic.
“This is an unprecedented and innovative approach to governing the Facebook platform, with the final authority over some of the most important content-related decisions moving to an independent supervisory board.
“Many will be cynical, but this is the wrong answer, due to the caliber of the board, the extraordinarily wide and deep scope of supervision and ultimately the complete independence of the board.”