Facebook Oversight Board reiterates calls for Meta to be more transparent

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By Clare Duffy, CNN Business

The independent board that oversees Facebook’s parent company Meta is once again urging the social media giant to be more transparent about its content moderation decisions.

The Facebook Oversight Board on Thursday released two decisions overturning Meta’s decisions to remove user posts from its platforms, saying the content did not actually violate company policies. In both decisions, the board recommended that Meta provide more information to users about the actions it takes on their content.

The Supervisory Board is made up of experts in areas such as freedom of expression and human rights who are appointed by the company but operate independently. The board, which reviews user appeals against content decisions on Meta-owned platforms, is often described as a sort of Supreme Court for Facebook.

The board has made similar calls for transparency since its decision in May to uphold Donald Trump’s suspension by Facebook. In that decision, the board agreed that Trump had seriously violated Facebook policies, but criticized the company for its indefinite initial suspension of the then president. The board asked Facebook to clarify how its actual policies applied to the situation, saying that “by applying a vague and unstandardized penalty and then sending this case back to the board for resolution, Facebook seeks to shirk its responsibilities “.

“They can’t just invent new unwritten rules when it suits them,” Supervisory Board co-chair Helle Thorning-Schmidt said in May of the Trump decision. “They have to have a transparent way of doing it.”

In October, the Supervisory Board released its first quarterly transparency report, noting that “Facebook is not clear with who uses its platforms” and calling on the company to give users more information about the decisions. in terms of content. The board also slammed Meta for hiding crucial details about its “Cross-Check” program to review content decisions related to high-level users, following reports on the program based on leaked internal documents. . (In response, Meta said it had asked the board for their opinion on Cross-Check and that they “would try to be more clear in our explanations in the future.”)

Calls for more transparency emerged again in the latest round of Supervisory Board decisions.

Thursday Supervisory Board decisions

In one of the two cases, the board overturned Meta’s decision to remove an Instagram post discussing ayahuasca, a psychedelic drink that has long been used for indigenous healing and spiritual rituals, after a review by its automated system and a human moderator. Meta told the Supervisory Board that the post was abolished because it encouraged the use of a non-medical drug. But the board said the post did not actually violate Instagram community guidelines at the time, which only banned the sale and purchase of drugs. He also took issue with the company’s claim that the post could harm public health, saying the post dealt with the use of ayahuasca in a religious context and did not include information on how to ‘obtain or use the substance.

But much of the board’s criticism in the case has focused on the fact that Meta did not tell the user who posted the post which of its rules it broke.

“The board is concerned that the company will continue to apply Facebook’s community standards on Instagram without transparently informing users,” the board said in a statement. “The board doesn’t understand why Meta can’t immediately update the language in Instagram’s community guidelines to tell users.”

The board ordered Instagram to restore the post. And in its recommendations based on the case, the board said that Meta should “explain to users precisely what rule of the content policy they have broken”, when their content is implemented. He also encouraged the company to update Instagram’s community guidelines to meet community standards on Facebook within 90 days.

In response to the board’s decision, Facebook said it had reinstated the post and would conduct a similar content review. He also said he would review the board’s policy recommendations.

“We welcome the decision of the Supervisory Board today on this matter,” the company said in a statement.

The second case involved a Facebook post in August 2021 of a North American Indigenous artwork intended to raise awareness about the discovery of anonymous graves at a former residential school for Indigenous children. In the post, the user noted the name of the artwork, “Kill the Indian / Save the Man,” and described the images in the artwork as: “The Flight of the Innocent, evil pretending to be a savior, boarding school / concentration camp, awaiting Discovery, bring our children home. Facebook’s automated systems identified the post as potentially contrary to its hate speech policy and a human reviewer deleted it the day after it was posted; when the user appealed the decision, a second human reviewer confirmed the decision to delete.

When the supervisory board selected the case for review, Meta identified the deletion of the message as a “runtime error” and restored it on August 27, according to the board’s statement on Thursday. However, Meta did not notify the user that their message had been restored until a month later, after the board asked the user about the company’s messaging, an issue that Meta blamed it on human error, the board said.

Based on the case, the board recommended that Meta “provide users with timely and accurate notice of any action taken by the company regarding the content to which their call relates.” He added that “in cases of execution error like this, the user notice must recognize that the action resulted from the Supervisory Board review process.”

Meta said in a statement that no action would be required based on the board’s decision in this case, as he had already reinstated the post, and said he would review the board’s policy recommendations. administration.

In its second transparency report, also released Thursday, the Supervisory Board took note of the two decisions and said it would “monitor whether and how the company delivers on its promises” by responding to the Board’s recommendations. He also announced his intention to publish an annual report next year to assess the company’s performance in implementing the decisions and recommendations of the board of directors.

“Over time, we believe the combined impact of our recommendations will push Meta to be more transparent and benefit users,” the board said in the report.

The-CNN-Wire
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