By Elizabeth Culliford
(Reuters) – Facebook Inc recommended rules on Tuesday for how its independent oversight board will work and said a former human rights group director will lead the board’s administrative staff.
The content appeals board, which will grow to about 40 members and will be able to overrule Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, is one of the company’s high-profile responses to criticism over how it handles problematic content on Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook will name board members later in 2020, but it announced that Thomas Hughes, former executive director for freedom of expression rights group Article 19, will oversee the board’s administrative staff, whose first offices will be in the United States and United Kingdom.
Brent Harris, Facebook’s head of governance and global affairs, said the company had narrowed choices for board members down to “a few dozen people” but no formal offers had been made. He said Facebook hoped the board, which will also be able to recommend policy changes, will start hearing cases this summer.
Facebook is under scrutiny ahead of the U.S. presidential elections in November, after U.S. intelligence agencies said that social media platforms were used in a Russian cyber-influence campaign aimed at interfering in the 2016 U.S. election – a claim Moscow has denied.
In December, Facebook pledged $130 million to fund the board for about six years.
The board’s cases can be referred either by Facebook or by a user who has exhausted the appeals process. The proposed bylaws give a 90-day period for the board to make a decision and Facebook to act on it. For cases with “urgent real-world consequences,” there will a 30-day expedited review.
Initially, Facebook said users will only be able to appeal to the board when their content has been removed, though in future it wants the board to also handle cases where content was left up.
Evelyn Douek, a doctoral student at Harvard Law School who studies online speech legislation, told Reuters she was disappointed with this limitation.
“A lot of the really controversial cases in the past few years have been not take-downs but leave-up decisions, things like the Nancy Pelosi video, hate speech in Myanmar,” said Douek. “And at the moment those aren’t in scope for the board to review them unless Facebook itself refers them to the board.”
Facebook, which has recently come under fire over its decision not to fact-check politicians’ ads, also said that the types of content that the board can review will later increase to include ads, Groups and Pages.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in San Francisco; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)