ImpACT welcomes Facebook’s launch of independent oversight board; urges it to pay special attention to policies in Middle East

London- ImpACT International welcomes Facebook’s announcement that it is creating an independent oversight board to evaluate how it handles controversial posts on its social media platforms. The think tank, based in London, points out that its own review shows the company has a track record of allowing repressive governments in its host countries to dictate the human rights protections it extends (or doesn’t extend) to users of Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook must establish content-moderation mechanisms that guarantee more transparency around decision-making and prevent the voices of some parties from being given greater visibility, while others are censored

Facebook must establish content-moderation mechanisms that guarantee more transparency around decision-making and prevent the voices of some parties from being given greater visibility, while others are censored,” says ImpACT International. “This can be achieved through a binding grievance mechanism that is insulated from external factors.”

ImpACT International hopes the independent oversight board will constitute a paradigm shift in content moderation, so that such processes are design in part to protect and promote human rights for all users.

ImpACT International stressed the need to find content moderation mechanisms for Facebook that guarantees more transparency in situations where certain parties are given greater voice, while others are being silenced. This can be achieved through a binding grievance mechanism that is not influenced by any external factors.

Facebook has developed a weak track record in monitoring for hate speech, misinformation campaigns and attempts to incite violence. At the same time, however, harmless communications by entities at odds with repressive governments have been banned. ImpACT emphasizes that any reforms must include timely and transparent. appeal mechanisms.

In addition, ImpACT has learned that Facebook is the only party responsible for selecting the oversight board’s trustees and chief officers. This policy must be modified to assure the board’s independence from Facebook, thus avoiding the risk of bias and self-interest.

In an earlier study published last September, ImpACT documented mounting incidents of cooperation between digital powerhouses—which host so much of global conversations—and repressive governments. It further found that when digital companies locate their offices in countries with governments known for human rights violations, they become complicit in efforts to silence dissenters and political opponents.

Palestinians and citizens of the Gulf have been particularly victimized, with many activists and political opponents subjected to prosecutions or restrictions on their freedom of movement and expression.  

ImpACT International points out that the global marketplace has evolved to the extent that multinational companies must consider human rights equally with profits. Hatred, violence and suppression of healthy dissent must not be given the “oxygen” they require to breathe.

Moreover, it calls on multinational companies to commit to a code of ethics that discourages hate and violence while permitting freedom of speech, including dissent. Governments must be pressured by their citizens and international bodies to adhere to universal principles of fairness and freedom.