Facebook Oversight Board Rules 4 Deleted Posts Must Be Restored The panel of experts tasked with reviewing Facebook's most difficult content decisions has issued its first rulings, dealing with hate speech, nudity and COVID-19 misinformation.

Facebook 'Supreme Court' Orders Social Network To Restore 4 Posts In 1st Rulings

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Facebook has created its own sort of Supreme Court. It's an oversight board that has the final say on some of its hardest decisions over what users can and cannot post. Today, that board issued its first rulings. It ordered the social network to restore several posts that it had removed for breaking Facebook rules. NPR tech correspondent Shannon Bond joins us now to explain.

Hey, Shannon.

SHANNON BOND, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: So we should first note Facebook is among NPR's financial supporters. All right. So, Shannon, tell us a little more about some of the cases this board considered.

BOND: Yeah, there were five in total announced today. And in each of these, the board was reviewing posts that Facebook had taken down for violating policies against things like hate speech, nudity and harmful misinformation about COVID-19. And when you dig into the details of these rulings, you know, enforcing these rules is really complicated. And ultimately, the board overturned Facebook's decision to remove in four of these first five cases.

CHANG: OK, so give us a quick example.

BOND: Right. So in one case, Facebook had removed a post from a user in Myanmar who had suggested there was something wrong with Muslims. And Facebook says this broke its rules against hate speech. This is an especially fraught issue because, of course, Facebook has been criticized for its role in the genocide of the country's Muslim minority. But the board looked at this and said, you know, if you take into consideration the full context, this post was pejorative, but the board didn't think it crossed the line into hate speech. And so it said Facebook needs more justification if it's going to take down posts like this. And the board told Facebook to reinstate it. Now, Facebook has agreed to abide by these rulings, and the post is already back up.

CHANG: Wait. So who is on this board exactly?

BOND: It's made up of 20 international experts. They're mainly in things like law and human rights, but there's also a Nobel Peace laureate, some journalists and even the former prime minister of Denmark. It was created by Facebook last year, and it's funded by Facebook through an independent trust.

CHANG: And do you think these decisions give us any clues as to how the board sees its overall role?

BOND: Well, I spoke to Evelyn Douek, a Harvard Law School lecturer who's been following the board very closely.

EVELYN DOUEK: These five cases, even though it's only five cases out of the thousands or millions of decisions that Facebook makes in a week, are a true shot across the bow from the oversight board to Facebook.

BOND: And she says it's a shot across the bow because the board is taking aim directly at some of Facebook's policies and enforcement. You know, it warned about the extent to which the company relies on artificial intelligence. It says those systems need more human oversight. It emphasized taking context into account, and it wants Facebook to just be much more clear about its rules on policies like health misinformation or dangerous groups.

And you know, Ailsa, we know Facebook has this immense power over what its billions of users can post. Now it's created this board. And from what we've seen today, the board has ambitions to be a real check on that power. You know, it's kind of flexing its muscles.

CHANG: Yeah, so interesting. Well, what I did notice is we did not hear today about Facebook's decision to suspend former President Trump after the whole insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. What do we know about the board's review of that case?

BOND: Right. Facebook reviewed the Trump suspension to the board last week. This is the case everyone has their eyes on, of course, right? It's a huge deal. The board is opening up for public comment tomorrow, and it has about three months to make a ruling. And ultimately, it's going to be up to the board to settle this very fraught debate over whether Trump should get his account back. So we'll stay tuned.

CHANG: That is NPR's Shannon Bond.

Thank you, Shannon.

BOND: Thanks, Ailsa.

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