Meta’s Oversight Board: A Review and Critical Assessment
Minds and Machines, forthcoming
19 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2022
Date Written: October 22, 2022
Since the announcement and establishment of the Oversight Board (OB) by the technology company Meta as an independent institution reviewing Facebook and Instagram’s content moderation decisions, the OB has been subjected to scholarly scrutiny ranging from praise to criticism. However, there is currently no overarching framework for understanding the OB’s various strengths and weaknesses. Consequently, this article analyses, organises, and supplements academic literature, news articles, and Meta and OB documents to understand the OB’s strengths and weaknesses and how it can be improved. Significant strengths include its ability to enhance the transparency of content moderation decisions and processes, to effect reform indirectly through policy recommendations, and its assertiveness in interpreting its jurisdiction and overruling Meta. Significant weaknesses include its limited jurisdiction, limited impact, Meta’s control over the OB’s precedent, and its lack of diversity. The analysis of a recent OB case in Ethiopia shows these strengths and weaknesses in practice. The OB’s relationship with Meta and governments will lead to challenges and opportunities shaping its future development. Reforms to the OB should improve the OB’s control over its precedent, apply OB precedent to currently disputed cases, and clarify the standards for invoking OB precedent. Finally, these reforms provide the foundation for an additional improvement to address the OB’s institutional weaknesses, by involving users in determining whether the OB’s precedent should be applied to decide current content moderation disputes.
Keywords: content moderation, digital governance, digital regulation, Facebook, Meta, Oversight Board
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