Facebook Oversight Board releases first content rulings

Facebook Oversight Board releases first content rulings
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The Facebook Oversight Board has made its first rulings on content, deciding to restore four out of five removed posts.

Established to hear appeals about content users felt had been unfairly taken down or cases recommended by Facebook itself, the Oversight Board made its first rulings on five posts concerning several issues, including hate speech, nudity, misinformation and violence.

Oversight Board rulings

The only content, the board upheld the takedown was for a “demeaning slur” against Azerbaijanis. It ruled that the post had been correctly deleted for using a term of disdain “meant to dehumanize” the Azerbaijani people.

Meanwhile, the board overturned the removal of four other content. It found that a comment made by a user in Myanmar, which seemed derogatory to Muslims, did not break hate speech rules when taken in context.

The Oversight Board also determined that an old post of an alleged quote from Joseph Goebbels re-shared by a US user did not violate polices on dangerous individuals and organizations. When taken in context, the board said the post did not support Nazi ideology.

It also found that a video bout Covid-19 “cures” was a comment about French government health policy and would not influence people to commit self-medication.

Finally, the board decided to restore an Instagram post of eight photographs of breast-cancer symptoms, which was removed by Facebook’s automated moderation system for breaking adult nudity rules.

Following the rulings, Facebook must restore these posts within a week, publicly respond to the rulings within 30 days, examine whether similar content should remain on its platform and give better clarity to its policies.

In a blog, the board wrote: “None of these cases had easy answers and deliberations revealed the enormous complexity of the issues involved.” Michael McConnell, who co-chairs the board, said: “We see this as the first step towards building a institution capable of holding Facebook to account.”

Review of Trump ban

The Oversight Board has also been tasked with reviewing the account suspension of former US President Donald Trump from Facebook.

Trump’s account was disabled indefinitely last January 7 following the US Capitol riots. The former president will be to submit a user statement to a five-member case-review panel.

The board’s decision will be considered binding and will also be applied to Instagram.

Facebook blocked Trump from posting on its platforms following attacks of his supporters on the US Capitol. In a blog post, chief executive officer (CEO) Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook and Instagram will ban Trump from posting for at least the remainder of his term in office.

Zuckerberg said: “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”

The Facebook CEO argued that Trump demonstrated that he “intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden.”