by Makia Freeman, Activist Post:
- THE STORY: On September 17th 2019, Facebook released a charter for a new Oversight Board to moderate its content, known colloquially by some as the Facebook Independent Supreme Court.
- THE IMPLICATIONS: How independent will this board really be? What are Facebook’s true motivations for setting up this board? Given the past history of fact checking and censorship, will this Independent Supreme Court become just another censoring authority?
What’s behind the Facebook Independent Supreme Court?
Facebook has announced the formation of a new Oversight Board which will be in charge of content moderation on the social media giant’s platform. The new body was known previously and colloquially as the Facebook Independent Supreme Court. This nickname is apt for many reasons. Facebook is not a private company but a quasi-governmental organization, and I use the word ‘quasi’ very generously in this context. Facebook has a background of accepting Military Intelligence seed money. Its suspicious inception date suggests it is a continuation of DARPA’s LifeLog surveillance program. Like many big companies in the corporatocracy, FB has a revolving door at the top, accepting many former government officials (like Nick Clegg quoted below) into senior management positions. Then, there is its cozy relationship with the Atlantic Council, which is in turn funded by the US Government and is connected to NATO. Facebook unveiled the plan for the board which includes giving it the power to moderate all content – including presumably the ability to demote, censor and ban. But how independent will this board be? What does this mean for free speech and censorship?
The Composition of the Facebook Independent Supreme Court
This Oversight Board will be funded by another body (the Facebook Trust). Initially, Facebook will be doing everything: funding the Trust, choosing the trustees of the Trust and placing all the initial 11 members on the Oversight Board. Independent, you may ask? RT reports:
Facebook insists it is “committed to selecting a diverse and qualified group” – no current or former Facebook employees or spouses thereof, current government officials or lobbyists (former ones are apparently OK), high-ranking officials within political parties (low-ranking is apparently cool), or significant shareholders of Facebook need apply. A law firm will be employed to vet candidates for conflicts of interest, but given Facebook’s apparent inability to recognize the conflict of interest inherent in paying “independent” board members to make binding content decisions, it’s hard to tell what would qualify as a conflict.
Setting an Industry Standard for Content Moderation, i.e. Censorship
Facebook has been under scrutiny and pressure for years now, especially for its disregard and invasion of privacy, as well as its perceived violation of anti-trust law. CEO Zuckerberg even called for Congress to regulate FB. This move is likely an attempt to self-regulate in the hopes that it avoids heavy-handed governmental regulation. Former British politician and now VP Global Affairs and Communications, Nick Clegg, wrote that the “Oversight Board will make Facebook more accountable and improve our decision-making … This charter is a critical step towards what we hope will become a model for our industry.” Is this Facebook Independent Supreme Court yet another attempt (alongside organizations like the Soros-linked International Fact Checking Network, and the Neocon and Atlantic Council-linked NewsGuard) to set up some kind of authoritative body who decides what is true and false, right and wrong, allowed and disallowed for every single online user? Will they begin to ‘rule by precedent’ in banning certain kinds of speech? How much chance will a small average user have to appeal? Here is RT again:
“For now,” only Facebook-initiated cases will be heard by the board – Facebook users will be able to launch their own appeals by mid-2020 … Decisions will not only be binding, but also applicable to other cases not being heard, if they’re deemed similar enough – potentially opening a Pandora’s box of far-reaching censorship.