The Meta Oversight Board's Human Rights Future
70 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2022 Last revised: 22 Jan 2023
Date Written: August 22, 2022
Responses to the new Oversight Board created by Facebook (now Meta) have run the gamut from enthusiastic to overtly suspicious. Many observers are highly skeptical of the Board’s ability to hold Meta accountable or to protect the platform’s users. Much of this skepticism is based on a misplaced analogy between the Board and domestic courts. We argue, in contrast, that the core challenges that the Oversight Board faces are similar to those confronted by international human rights tribunals. Analyzing the Oversight Board as a de facto human rights tribunal sheds light on the strengths and weaknesses of its structure, decision-making, and potential future trajectory. Seen from this perspective, key design features that commentators have criticized are, in fact, strengths the Board is already using to expand its authority, develop human rights norms, and influence efforts to regulate social media platforms.
This Article is the first to examine the human rights origins of the Oversight Board, the similarities between the new body and international human rights tribunals, and how the Board is using human rights standards to pressure Meta to improve its content moderation policies and to inform ongoing efforts to regulate private social media companies. We complement this analysis with a range of recommendations for the Board to be even more effective, as well as explore possible risks and challenges, including backlash, whitewashing, and negative spillover. Although a sanguine vision of the Board’s future is by no means assured, when viewed in light of the experience of international human rights tribunals, we conclude that the Board has the potential to serve as a meaningful check on Meta and to significantly advance the promotion and protection of human rights online.
Keywords: social media, human rights, technology, cyberlaw, international law, international tribunals, content moderation, facebook, freedom of expression
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