Facebook’s oversight body: Huge step, baby step

This could almost be a sidebar to what I wrote just last week about the new middle layer of user care that’s organically developing for the new conditions of today’s media environment—a layer of care that’s independent of government and corporations and lies between “the cloud” and long-established care on the ground. But this news is way too big for a sidebar! [Disclosure: In addition to the trust & safety advisories of other social media platforms, I serve on Facebook’s Safety Advisory Board but was not briefed beforehand on this announcement. The ideas expressed here are entirely my own.]

Facebook’s graphic for its just-announced Oversight Board

Giant step + baby step

I don’t think I’ll ever forget hearing what Radiolab producer Simon Adler told On the Media’s Brooke Gladstone here about what he took away from his in-depth story, “Post No Evil,” about Facebook’s content moderation challenge:

Key questions

The biggest question, of course, is how to set up what amounts to a new global institution? Other key ones are: how does one body represent, much less serve, the whole world? How does it interface with governments? Does it only address issues not addressed by national laws? What kind of support staff does it need, is it part of Facebook or independent too, and — if the former — what part of Facebook does it “live” in and and what rules govern its work with this external body?

Some predictions

It certainly won’t be easy for the company to find and then hold to the signal amid all the noise this process will trigger. As the discussion grows, I predict 3 things will happen (among undoubtedly many more):

  1. Simplification: Users will likely struggle to distinguish between content moderation (getting harmful content removed) and moderation appeals (appealing removal decisions) — between the work of “deletion centers” like Germany’s and the Oversight Board. They will naturally look for “one-stop shopping” where regulating content moderation’s concerned. So….
  2. Multiplication: For reasons of capacity, diversity, representation and practicality, governments and NGOs will ask Facebook to develop Oversight Boards (or morph current entities like those “deletion centers”) into regional ones.

Youth advocate; blogger, NetFamilyNews.org; founder, The Net Safety Collaborative