In Ruling on Trump’s Ban, Fb’s Oversight Board Has the Alternative to Change the Platform’s Strategy
Facebook’s independent Oversight Board project is currently the largest and most promising experiment in improving social media moderation. An independent team of experts in a number of areas can override platform decisions on both content removal and complaints, and Facebook is expanding its scope to include the latter only this week.
This gives users another opportunity to take action beyond Facebook’s arbitrators, which at times have proven inconsistent, inflexible, and even unresponsive to similar concerns and requests.
Really, that’s what is needed. Amid the confusion about how to address issues like QAnon, COVID-19 misinformation, violent comments, and more, Facebook, like other social platforms, struggles to strike the right balance and often ignores experts in promoting its broader ideals of free speech and Pursue freedom of speech expression among its users.
Ideally, Facebook would prefer a completely straightforward approach – “We build the platform, people interact at will”. However, when you run the largest single collection of connected people in history, it has certain responsibilities attached to it. Facebook specifically recognizes this in more extreme cases of criminal activity, but it appears to be struggling to grasp the fact that its various tools can do real harm in many other ways.
But now, after the Capitol uprising, that perspective seems to have at least changed somewhat. The importance of Facebook’s oversight board project is more important than ever.
And soon the board is facing its first big test, which will be to decide whether former US President Donald Trump should return to the platform to lift or maintain the ban on Facebook.
Facebook initially banned Trump in January, the day after the Capitol riot, citing Trump’s continued use of social media to incite dissent that led to the incident. Facebook has since confirmed this, even removing clips of Trump posted by friends and relatives to keep him away from his apps.
The action against the former president received equal support and criticism, with many voicing serious concerns about Facebook’s power to silence anyone it votes.
Ultimately, however, this important decision will be made by the new independent agency, which is currently handling the case and will publish its findings shortly.
The board released an update on the case today, noting that:
“The board will announce its decision on the case of the indefinite suspension of former US President Trump from Facebook and Instagram in the coming weeks. We have extended the deadline for public comments on this case and received more than 9,000 responses. The board has undertakes to carefully consider all comments extended the deadline for the case in accordance with the Board of Directors’ Articles of Association. We will publish more information shortly. “
The sheer volume of public responses underscores the importance of this case, and many believe that the board will actually reinstate Trump, undoing the social network’s original decision.
This could have a significant impact in the future – as tech journalist Casey Newton noted this week:
“If Trump gets back to Facebook, it’s easy to imagine he’ll end up back in line on the oversight board. The Twitter-like statements he’s making from Mar-a-Lago these days are full of lies about how he made the election in “won” a “landslide” that, if placed on Facebook, could increase the potential for real world damage. There is a possibility that the board of directors will be asked to review every single thing Trump posts on Facebook has to weigh up when he comes back. “
Of course, it is not the responsibility of the oversight board to determine the future impact, but rather it must decide each case on the basis of its own merit. And within that, there’s a great chance the board will vote for Trump, giving the former president a direct line to his millions of supporters, which is likely to spark a new round of political disagreement and divisions as he nears the next level, whatever that would be possible.
Trump was reportedly keen to get back on social media and regain his unfiltered connection with his fans. Trump’s team has explored variations on his own social platform that would take a more open approach to freedom of expression, but even if Trump and Co. could develop a viable alternative platform, it would never give Trump the reach that he can through Facebook and See Twitter to see what may have brought him to power in the beginning.
There are significant concerns about this, but the role of the Oversight Board is to determine the merits of Trump’s initial ban and determine how Facebook should proceed.
Does Trump deserve to be banned? It’s hard to argue against the fact that Trump led his supporters to protest the election result that eventually led to the Capitol uprising. However, given Facebook’s inconsistency in monitoring Trump’s claims in the past, it also begs the question of whether the rules were clear enough to Trump and his team, and where the line was about what Trump could and could not say.
Nor did Trump directly ask his followers to storm the Capitol as such. But did he provoke them enough to warrant a ban? Should the world leaders be exempt from such rules because they are elected by the people and the people then have the right to hear what they have to say?
Given the broader implications, it is clear that this case is about much more than just banning Donald Trump – the possible outcomes could have a significant impact on Facebook’s policy on how to move forward and clearer rules for it determine the use of the platform by the users. and how elected officials can communicate in particular through social media.
With that in mind, it will be fascinating to read the full review of this case and see the response from Facebook.
This could be a major turning point for such a policy, which could lead to the implementation of more specific rules for the same future. Which is what we really need. While many will agree to the Trump ban, what is needed now is a specific and in-depth look at what the social platforms allow and what not, and the approach will be clarified from now on.
This will lead to fewer headaches, less confusion and, ideally, less social division.
The core element is recognizing the damage that posts and tweets can cause and amplifying it in each app. Facebook still refuses to accept this in many ways, but this judgment could make the meaning of such absolutely clear.