Facebook wants to change the Oversight Board's recommendation process

The company says it can't keep up with the group's policy recommendations.

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The Oversight Board has only been up and running for less than a year, but Facebook says it’s already having trouble keeping up with the group’s recommendations. The company says it wants to work with the Oversight Board to “improve the recommendation process,” though it’s not yet clear what those changes might entail. But it suggests Facebook is looking to shake up the way it deals with the independent body it created to oversee its content policies.

In a new report detailing Facebook’s dealings with the Oversight Board, the company notes that it’s made significant changes as the result of the Oversight Board’s recommendations. These changes include updates to how it handles hate speech and nudity, as well as how it determines “newsworthy” content.

But Facebook is now suggesting it wants to change up the recommendation process. “While we have made these important changes as a result of the board’s recommendations, we believe the current design of the recommendation process may not be the best way to bring about the long-term, structural changes the board is pushing us to undertake,” the company writes in its report. “We are working with the board and our internal teams to explore other ways to potentially improve the recommendation process.”

Again, it’s not clear exactly what this means for the Oversight Board or Facebook’s relationship with the group. During a call with reporters on Tuesday, Facebook’s Monika Bickert declined to elaborate on specific changes the company was hoping to make.

In its report, Facebook writes that “the pace and volume of the recommendations do not allow us adequate time to initially assess and implement the recommendations.” According to Facebook, most of the board’s recommendations “require over a dozen people to assess feasibility, which we cannot easily complete in 30 days.” the company added that it can take considerable time to determine how to integrate the policy suggestions into its existing product development.

“The Oversight Board is working with Meta to strengthen the company’s implementation of our recommendations, as we push them to provide greater transparency about their content moderation and to treat all users fairly," a representative for the Oversight Board said in a statement to Engadget. "We’ve made over 70 recommendations to date to Meta, the majority of which they’ve committed to, but there’s a lot more work that needs to be done. We’re closely monitoring how the company responds to our recommendations, and will continue to publicly report on how we view Meta’s progress in implementing these.”

But while it’s not yet clear what will change as a result of Facebook’s proposed “potential changes,” the fact that the company is already trying to make major changes to how it deals with the board is significant. Since its inception, Facebook critics have blasted the Oversight Board as little more than a PR stunt. And while the company has said it will abide by individual content decisions made by the board, its broader policy recommendations are where it could have the greatest influence over the company. For example, the board criticized Facebook’s decision to impose an “indefinite suspension” on former President Donald Trump, and told the company it needed to better define its rules for politicians.

Facebook has even suggested that other platforms should use the Oversight Board to monitor their content policies as well. That the company is now claiming it’s too difficult to keep up with the process its executives and policy officials designed could potentially undermine the influence the board is able to wield.

Update 11/10: This post was updated with a statement from the Oversight Board.