Facebook to hand off editorial oversight to independent board in 2019

Zuckerberg said Facebook will create a governing body to address content appeals.

Erin Carson Former Senior Writer
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Erin Carson
3 min read

Mark Zuckerberg described the beginnings of a governing body that will deal with content appeals.

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Facebook will establish a governing body to handle appeals to decisions the social networks makes about posted content, a move that follows a New York Times piece detailing alleged shortcomings in how the social network's leadership dealt with Russian election interference, data privacy scandals and other issues facing the platform.

Users whose posts have been deleted by Facebook can appeal to the independent body for an explanation of the social network's action, including why a post may have violated the social network's community standards. In a post, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the relationship between the governance body and users would be like that between a board of directors and shareholders. 

Zuckerberg also said the company has to wade through questions about the limits of what users should be able to express, who decides policies and makes enforcement decisions, and who holds those people accountable.

"As with many of the biggest challenges we face, there isn't broad agreement on the right approach, and thoughtful people come to very different conclusions on what are acceptable tradeoffs," Zuckerberg wrote. 

Facebook's establishment of a governing body is among its solutions to address what responsibility it bears for content posted to the site. Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg have both traveled to Washington, DC to answer questions about how Russian trolls used Facebook to spread propaganda aimed at influencing voters. Facebook along with other platforms like Twitter, are also trying to define their role in policing hateful posts. 

Meanwhile, Facebook has fielded questions from lawmakers as to whether it is silencing conservative voices

Watch this: Zuckerberg defends actions after New York Times investigation

In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Zuckerberg said his views on how to handle the challenges the company faces have evolved over time. His deliberations, he said, led him to believe the company needed more help in addressing its problems.

"I've come to believe that we shouldn't be making so many important decisions about free expression and safety on our own," founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on a call Thursday.

Facebook will put the oversight board together next year. He said Facebook still has to figure out who should be on the body.

The thin details suggested to some analysts that the concept for the oversight board was part of Facebook's efforts to deflect attention from its continuing problems, which were the subject of a lengthy New York Times story on Wednesday. In a 5,000-word story, The Times presented a harsh view of Zuckerberg's and COO Sheryl Sandberg's handling of Russian use of the platform during the election and a massive data privacy scandal. Following the report, some US lawmakers were already calling for more regulation of Facebook.

"Simply announcing that a board like this is going to exist is public relations," said Brian Solis, a principal analyst at Altimeter Group. "[This governing body] is necessary and important, but its lack of structure and substance in its announcement tells me that it was pulled together to deflect."

Ultimately, Solis said he's left with the questions: Why now? Why not sooner? And why not more swiftly?

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