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Democrats concerned by Facebook oversight board's limited authority

  • (The board) may simply act as a smokescreen behind which Facebook's executives will maintain ultimate control over its content moderation decision-making process.
  • The members said the board's powers, as defined by its charter, limit it to merely enforcing current content policies the company has adopted.
12 Aug 2020

WASHINGTON: Three Democratic members of the US House of Representatives on Tuesday urged Facebook Inc to enact the policy recommendations of the company's oversight board, empowering the independent group of advisers, which the lawmakers said have limited responsibilities.

Facebook's independent board has the authority to overturn decisions by the company and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on whether individual content should be allowed on Facebook and Instagram. The oversight board focuses on a small slice of challenging issues, including hate speech, harassment and people's safety.

"We are concerned that Facebook's Oversight Board - and its members - may be ill-equipped and ill-empowered to meaningfully improve the incredibly troubling behavior of the company," said a letter sent to members of the oversight board from House Energy and Commerce committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky.

"(The board) may simply act as a smokescreen behind which Facebook's executives will maintain ultimate control over its content moderation decision-making process," the letter said.

The members said the board's powers, as defined by its charter, limit it to merely enforcing current content policies the company has adopted.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lawmakers, concerned about election interference, have been interrogating social media giants in the run up to the November presidential elections. Zuckerberg recently testified in front of a congressional committee and was grilled by both Democrats and Republicans about Facebook's content moderation decisions.

The company unveiled a new policy on Tuesday that would prevent US publishers with political ties from running ads presented as news articles.

In May, the world's largest online social network, with 2.7 billion monthly active users, named its first set of oversight board members. The company also said the board will grow to about 40 members and pledged to fund it with $130 million for at least six years.

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