Facebook restores policy it 'lost' three years ago

It also responded to 11 other Oversight Board recommendations.

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ANKARA, TURKEY - MAY 07: Oversight Board logo is seen on a smart phone in Ankara, Turkey on May 07, 2020. (Photo by Hakan Nural/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Last month, Facebook’s Oversight Board chastised the company for losing an important policy for three years. At the center of the ruling was an Instagram post about Abdullah Öcalan, which encouraged people to talk about his political imprisonment. Öcalan is one of the founding members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The PKK is a Kurdish militia Facebook classifies as a “dangerous organization.”

The company had initially removed the post because of a rule that prohibits Facebook users from expressing support for groups and individuals that fall under that category. At the same time, Facebook also had “internal guidance” in place — which came out in part around discussions the company had about Öcalan’s imprisonment — that carved out an exception to that policy to allow people to discuss “conditions of confinement for individuals designated as dangerous.” However, Facebook did not apply that rule to Öcalan’s case due to an oversight that occurred when it moved to a new review system in 2018.

In examining what happened, the Oversight Board issued 12 recommendations to Facebook, which the company responded to today. To start, it will “immediately” re-implement the misplaced policy at the center of the case. Facebook says it has begun training its content reviewers on implementing the rule and expects the guidance to be fully in place within the next two weeks. 

By the end of the year, it also plans to clarify the Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy. Out of the 12 recommendations put forward by the Oversight Board, Facebook plans to fully or partially implement most of them. However, one it’s not sure on would involve the company sharing more comprehensive information on its enforcement of those policies. The company says it’s still examining the feasibility of creating a system that provides a country-by-country breakdown of enforcement and error data. It says it will share an update on that work in one of its upcoming quarterly updates.

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