Several prominent Facebook critics have formed a rival oversight board that will scrutinize the company’s content moderation practices and other policies. The group is called the Real Facebook Oversight Board.
UK-based advocacy group The Citizens announced the committee one day after Facebook’s formal Oversight Board said it would start assessing moderation disputes next month. That body will have up to 90 days to make decisions on cases, and it’s unlikely to have a bearing on how Facebook handles November’s presidential election.
"This is an emergency response," Guardian journalist and founder of The Citizens Carole Cadwalladr told NBC News. "We know there are going to be a series of incidents leading up to the election and beyond in which Facebook is crucial. This is a real-time response from an authoritative group of experts to counter the spin Facebook is putting out."
— The Real Facebook Oversight Board (@FBoversight) September 25, 2020
The Real Facebook Oversight Board comprises 25 or so experts from the fields of academia, civil rights, politics and journalism. Among them are the company’s former head of election integrity operations for political ads Yael Eisenstat and early investor Roger McNamee. Other members include UK Member of Parliament Damian Collins, NAACP president Derrick Johnson and Marietje Schaake, a politician and the international policy director at Stanford University's Cyber Policy Center.
The group will discuss Facebook platform issues in weekly public Zoom meetings and broadcast those on Facebook Live. Topics will include political ads, militias organizing themselves through Facebook events and the spread of QAnon conspiracy theories. The first meeting is set to take place on October 1st, with a focus on election issues such as voter suppression and misinformation.
Facebook announced plans to form its own Oversight Board in 2018 and revealed the first batch of members in May. Some experts have suggested the board’s mandate is far too limited, as a large part of its work will center on content moderation appeals.
Facebook will abide by that panel’s decisions but the company can ignore the Real Facebook Oversight Board’s suggestions entirely. It voiced concerns over that group to the investment firm Omidyar Network, which has provided funding to The Citizens. Facebook spokesman Jeffrey Gelman told NBC News the company tried to convince investors that "we are ultimately working toward the same goal."