Meta withdraws Oversight Board request for help with Ukraine policies

The company cited unspecified "security concerns."

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Meta has withdrawn a request it made to its oversight Board seeking guidance on shaping its content moderation policies amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The company had originally asked the Oversight Board for a policy advisory opinion (PAO) in March, following controversy over its decision to “temporarily” relax some of its rules surrounding calls for violence.

Now, nearly two months later, Meta has taken the unusual step of taking back the request. The company cited unspecified security concerns as a reason, but didn’t elaborate. “This decision was not made lightly — the PAO was withdrawn due to ongoing safety and security concerns,” Meta wrote in a statement. It also linked to its blog post on its “ongoing” response to the war in Ukraine, which has not been updated since March 17th.

“While the Board understands these concerns, we believe the request raises important issues and are disappointed by the company’s decision to withdraw it,” the Oversight Board said in a statement. “The Board also notes the withdrawal of this request does not diminish Meta’s responsibility to carefully consider the ongoing content moderation issues which have arisen from this war, which the Board continues to follow.”

While it’s unclear exactly why Meta chose to withdraw its request, the move is nonetheless bizarre. Neither Meta nor the Oversight Board has ever publicly commented on what exactly the company’s original PAO request entailed. Meta’s policy chief Nick Clegg told employees the company would ask the board to review its updated guidance for content moderators, The Washington Post reported in March.

Regardless of the request, Meta is not obligated to implement any policy changes recommended by the Oversight Board, which used a past Policy Advisory request to influence the company’s policies around doxxing.

Meta’s actions are also likely to raise renewed questions about just how much influence the board is capable of wielding. Throughout its brief existence, a central criticism of the organization is that it is set up to take heat for the company’s more unpopular decisions while Meta is free to ignore its recommendations.