The Facebook Oversight Board issued its first set of rulings this morning, but did not rule on the most anticipated issue: whether Facebook and Instagram will make their bans of former president Trump permanent.
Instead, the board said in a post that it would be opening public comment on the Trump matter, without specifying when that period would begin, or how long it would last.
The board overturned four out of the five Facebook decisions on which it ruled, and in each case also included policy advisories.
Two of the cases involved Facebook’s having removed comments for violating its Community Standard on hate speech.
One, which used a “demeaning slur” to describe Azerbaijanis, was upheld.
The other, which questioned the lack of response by Muslims generally to the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China, compared to killings in response to cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in France, was overturned. The board said that while the post might be considered offensive, it did not reach the level of hate speech.
In cases relating to other standards, the board overturned Facebook’s removal of a post that included photos of breast cancer symptoms which, in some cases, showed uncovered female nipples; a post that alluded to Joseph Goebbels in a misattributed quote being used to draw a comparison to the tactics of the Trump administration; and a post that criticized the lack of a health strategy in France and included claims that a cure for COVID-19 exists.
In addition to its rulings, the board released 80 public comments that it said had “provided valuable insights in areas such as local context and Facebook’s Community Standards, as well as giving feedback on the public comments process itself.” In one case, the board said, it used public comments to shape a policy recommendation.
Academics and civil rights leaders who are part of the watchdog group that calls itself The Real Facebook Oversight Board immediately issued statements criticizing the rulings.
They argued that the rulings “repeatedly dodged questions of why human rights law is not universally applied across Facebook’s platforms,” and “confirm Facebook’s worst-kept secret: It has no moderation strategy and no clear or consistent standards.”
The group also charged that the board’s “limited ruling on COVID disinformation shows the impotence of this body to stop disinformation on a global scale.”
“Of all the issues such as the spread of antisemitism, hate, and disinformation on
Facebook, it's hard to understand why the Oversight Board has chosen to start their process with six cases out of the more than 20,000 reported by users and has given itself three months to
deliberate,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.
The group maintains that Facebook’s Oversight Board can’t be regarded as independent when those on it “are being paid six-figure salaries by Facebook.”
It has challenged the overall legitimacy of the board oversight process, calling it a “distraction from the very serious issues that Facebook is failing to address.”