“The council is attentive and is of course aware of the concerns surrounding this election and the role that social media will play,” said Owono, also executive director of the digital rights organization Internet Sans Frontières. “When we launch, we’ll be ready to accept requests, wherever they come from and whoever they come from, as long as it’s within our mandate.”The launch will come at a time of intense scrutiny and pressure for the company, which has gone from controversy to controversy since it was used by Russia to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election. The consequences of Facebook’s failures in the fight against hate speech and incitement to hatred, which for years have been linked to violence in several countries and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, have become increasingly apparent in his country of origin. month. During a summer of civil unrest in the United States, Facebook has been linked to the growth of the violent Boogaloo movement and the ‘call to arms’ of a militia the night two Black Lives Matter protesters were shot dead in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The limits of the mandate of the supervisory board have been a key point of controversy since the independent institution was proposed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2018. The original statutes of the board only allowed it to take into account calls from users who believe individual pieces of content have been unfairly deleted, drawing criticism from experts, including Evelyn Douek, a lecturer at Harvard Law School who studies online speech regulation.
“We were told it would be Facebook’s supreme court, but then it looked more like a local district court, and now it’s more of a traffic court,” Douek told The Guardian. “It was just gradually reduced over time. ”
Critical areas in which Facebook exercises editorial control include the algorithms that determine which content is served the most; decisions to delete or leave Facebook groups, pages and events; and decisions to leave certain pieces of content in place.
The board would consider making “quit” decisions upon launch, Owono said, but only if Facebook referred a case to it. She said technical and privacy concerns had delayed the launch of a system allowing Facebook users to appeal “opt-out” decisions, but that it would be available “as soon as possible”.
Facebook’s decisions to leave certain content in place, such as its decision not to remove a post from Donald Trump threatening Black Lives Matter protesters that “when the looting begins, the shooting begins” have become as controversial, if not more so, that its decisions to remove certain content.
Owono said that “checks and balances are needed everywhere”, including through aspects of Facebook not included in the mandate of the supervisory board, and she expressed some optimism that the institution was sufficiently “agile. To change and adapt. Her own concern over Facebook’s “inaction” on hate speech and incitement to hatred was a major factor in her decision to join the board, she said.
“Reluctance to address these issues is increasingly leading governments around the world, especially in Africa, to say that to curb incitement to violence, they must shut down the Internet altogether,” she said. “For me, it was important to be part of an institution that would be able not only to say whether or not Facebook’s decisions comply with community standards and international law, but also whether Facebook’s inaction is. , because we will be able to watch when removing the content, but also the content left in place. “
When asked if she agreed with Facebook’s decision to step down from Trump’s “looting” post, Owono hesitated, noting that the board was in its infancy at the time. When Owono was asked about her personal opinion, a public relations representative stepped in to refer to a declaration the council released at the time, which noted that the council had important work to do before it could start reviewing cases.
This work has included ensuring that all board members are fully conversant with Facebook community standards and international human rights law and obtaining technical training on the case management tool that will enable board members. board to receive and review appeals, Owono said.
The tool was designed by engineers at Facebook with considerable input from members of the supervisory board, according to a person familiar with the matter. One detail requested by the jury members was to format the call statements submitted by users with line numbers, so that they look like legal filings. At launch, it will be available in 18 languages, although that number includes both US and UK English and two types of Spanish.
Owono said she wanted to ensure that the work and decisions of the board reflect both the diversity of Facebook users and the “diversity of impact and where those impacts occur,” noting that he vast majority of Facebook users are located outside of the United States.
“There will be many more elections at the end of 2020 in which the role of the platforms will also be and should be considered,” Owono said, including a general election in Myanmar on November 8. “If we receive any requests related to these elections, we will also give the same attention and take the decisions that are requested of us in a thorough manner and in accordance with the principles of international law.”