Facebook critics launch shadow oversight board

The social network's own oversight board is expected to launch in mid- to late October.

Andrew Morse Former executive editor
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A group of Facebook critics have created a shadow oversight board to appraise the social network's content moderation decisions and other policies. The body, which announced its creation on Friday, will hold its first meeting next week, before Facebook's own oversight board debuts.

The Real Facebook Oversight Board, which consists of academics, journalists and activists, will conduct its deliberations in public. The rival board was unveiled in a tweet by Carole Cadwalladr, the journalist who broke the Cambridge Analytica story about the scraping of data that was used for ad targeting in the 2016 presidential election.

"Facebook is a weapon. A private company, controlled by one man, being used to undermine democracy," Cadwalladr tweeted, referencing CEO Mark Zuckerberg . "We urgently need to hold it to account. Before it's too late. Today we launch the Real Facebook Oversight Board @FBoversight to try & do just that. Join us"

The launch of the shadow oversight board comes a day after Facebook's own review body said it would be operational in mid- to late October. The official oversight board, which will have the power to uphold or overturn decisions made by Facebook, will debut just ahead of a heated US presidential election that has already forced social networks to adopt new rules on advertising and labels for some posts by politicians.

On its website, the shadow board complains the official board has taken too long to set up and that its mandate is limited. It also worries that the 90 days potentially needed to reach decisions isn't fast enough to address the "urgent risks" Facebook may present to the upcoming election.

"We're not waiting for another election to go wrong," the shadow oversight board says on its website. "We believe accountability in real time is vital." 

A Facebook spokesperson said the official oversight board required time to vet members, develop a process for submitting appeals and create a secure technology for the members to use when discussing decisions.

"We ran a year-long global consultation to set up the Oversight Board as a long-lasting institution that will provide binding, independent oversight over some of our hardest content decisions. The members were selected for their deep experience in a diverse range of issues," the spokesperson said in a statement. "This new effort is mostly longtime critics creating a new channel for existing criticisms."

The shadow oversight board will conduct its sessions in public on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. ET. The platform: Facebook Live.

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