Today, Julie Owono, a digital rights advocate and Executive Director of Internet Sans Frontières from Cameroon, Maina Kiai, a human rights activist and Director of Human Rights Watch’s Global Alliances and Partnerships program from Kenya, and Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei, a human rights lawyer and Program Manager at the Open Society Initiative for West Africa from Senegal, Ghana and South Africa were appointed as Board Members to the newly created Oversight Board. The Oversight Board will review certain content decisions by Facebook and Instagram and make binding decisions based on respect for freedom of expression and human rights.
The Oversight Board will tackle increasingly complex and contentious debates about what types of content should and should not be permitted on Facebook and Instagram and who should decide. The Board will prioritize cases that potentially impact many users, are of critical importance to public discourse, or raise questions about Facebook’s policies. Decisions made by the Board must be implemented by Facebook, as long as they do not violate the law. Oversight Board Members are independent from the company, funded by an independent trust and cannot be removed by Facebook based on their decisions.
Preserving the free flow of information is a major issue in our contemporary societies. I come from Cameroon, I grew up in Russia, studied in France, I am currently in the USA, this journey has reinforced my conviction that without freedom, without the right to express oneself, to receive or impart information, there can’t be true and profound progress. It is an honor for me to serve this cause, within the Oversight Board.Julie Owono
“We have been talking for a long time about creating some kind of independent governance structure for making big companies more accountable on some of the most important decisions they make,” said Maina Kiai. State regulation is important, and I think we need to make progress there too, but I think the Board is an exciting experiment and I’m excited to be part of it,” Kiai added.
The very act of creating this Board shows Facebook has taken the criticism leveled against it seriously and I hope my membership can help address some of these criticisms,” said Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei. I am particularly focused on the Board’s role in improving transparency and accountability, and creating an appeal process where people can bring their content issues. I feel strongly that the Board needs to be truly representative, not just in terms of geography, but age, subject matter and breadth of issues covered as well .Asare-Kyei
Owono, Kiai and Asare-Kyei will work in collaboration with 17 other Members who speak over 27 languages and have diverse professional, cultural, political, and religious backgrounds and viewpoints. Over time the Board will grow to around 40 Members. While no one can claim to represent everyone, Members are confident that the global composition will underpin, strengthen and guide decision-making.
All decisions will be made public, and Facebook must respond publicly to them. All Board decisions will be published on its website, while protecting the identity and privacy of those involved. Additionally, the Board will issue a public annual report on its work to evaluate how the Board is fulfilling its purpose and whether Members believe Facebook is living up to its commitments.
Members contract directly with the Oversight Board, are not Facebook employees and cannot be removed by Facebook. Members will serve for a maximum of three 3-year terms and case panels will be confidential and assigned at random; no Member can choose the panel they sit on, and all opinions will be anonymous. The Board’s financial independence is also guaranteed by the establishment of a $130 million trust fund that is completely independent of Facebook, which will fund its operations and cannot be revoked.
The Oversight Board is focused on addressing some of the most significant content moderation decisions on Facebook and Instagram that are referred by both users and Facebook. The Oversight Board will begin hearing cases in the coming months. Initially, users will be able to appeal to the Board in cases where Facebook has removed their content. Over the following months, the Board will also be able to review appeals from users who want Facebook to remove content, including advertising. The Board will not be able to make decisions on all of the many thousands of appeals from users that it anticipates receiving, but it will prioritise cases that potentially impact many users, are of critical importance to public discourse or that raise questions about Facebook’s policies.