Facebook announced on Wednesday that the first members of its independent "Supreme Court" were empowered to make binding decisions about what content to allow or remove on social media and Instagram.
The board is expected to make final decisions about the types of posts that are known to involve Facebook in controversy about censorship, misinformation, or freedom of speech.
Brent Harris, director of public policy for Facebook, described the creation of the board as "the beginning of a fundamental change in the way some of the most difficult content decisions are made on Facebook."
The 20 members of the panel announced on Wednesday come from different countries and include lawyers, human rights defenders, journalists, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a former Danish Prime Minister.
"This is a group with different insights, backgrounds and beliefs, but they are strongly committed to promoting human rights and freedom of expression," said board member Thomas Hughes during a telephone briefing.
The board is to be expanded to 40 members. It was unclear when the chamber would start hearing cases due to restrictions on collecting or traveling due to the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
The board members met virtually and training began, according to Hughes.
The board was first proposed by Facebook co-founder and boss Mark Zuckerberg in 2018, and the California-based internet giant has set up a foundation to fund his work as an independent entity, Harris said.
"Nowadays, the impact of social media on people's lives is difficult to grasp. This can often be positive," the board said in a blog post.
"As the world goes through a global health crisis, social media has become a lifeline to help people and communities stay connected. At the same time, we know that social media can spread a language that is hateful, harmful, and fraudulent. In recent years, the question of what content should stay up or down and who should decide this has become more and more pressing for society. "
Hughes said he was open to the board, which acts as an arbitrator for disputes for other social media companies like Twitter. Currently, however, the focus is on filling the list and taking action in cases of Facebook or Instagram posts.
Not the "internet police"
Facebook will implement the board's decisions unless they violate the law and, according to Harris, will "respond" to policy guidelines.
The board said it would decide whether controversial posts comply with Facebook and Instagram's policies and "values" and freedom of expression within international human rights norms, regardless of the corporate interests of the social network.
Facebook cannot remove members or employees of the board of directors, which is supported by an irrevocable trust fund of $ 130 million.
Users of Facebook or Instagram as well as the social network itself can forward decisions to remove content to the board.
"For the first time, an independent body will make final and binding decisions about what remains and what is removed," said Helle Thorning-Schmidt, co-chair of the board, a former Danish prime minister.
"This is a big deal. We're basically building a new model for platform governance."
Michael McConnell, co-chair of the board of directors, professor of university law and former US federal judge, said the expected volume of cases would make it impossible to consider them all.
Instead, like the US Supreme Court, the board will prioritize content removal cases that can set precedents for Facebook's use of similar material, McConnell said.
"We may have to pick a few flowers or weeds from a field of options," said McConnell.
The board plans to initially focus on cases that affect a large number of users. Second, cases seem to have a huge impact on public discourse, and then those that influence platform politics and guide their decisions on a variety of issues, he explained.
"We are not the internet police," said McConnell.
"Don't think of us as a quick action team that will sneak in. Our job is to think about appointments and take a second look afterwards."
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)