Facebook Oversight Board allows appeals on content that remains online

Independent group now lets users challenge other people's content, not only their own

FILE PHOTO: People are silhouetted as they pose with laptops in front of a screen projected with a Facebook logo, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica, October 29, 2014. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo
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Facebook and Instagram users can now appeal against other people's content that has been allowed to remain on the platforms after the independent Oversight Board expanded its mandate.

The board, which began operating in October and reviews the social media giant’s content decisions, is allowing users to challenge posts that Facebook permits to stay on the site, not only those it has removed.

Until now, users had only been able to appeal about their own content being removed.

“Enabling users to appeal content they want to see removed from Facebook is a significant expansion of the Oversight Board’s capabilities,” Thomas Hughes, director of the Oversight Board administration, said on Tuesday.

“Over the coming weeks, we’ll be rolling out the ability for all users to appeal content they want removed from Facebook and Instagram.”

The content eligible for review includes posts, status updates, photos, videos, comments and shares.

If there are multiple user appeals on the same piece of content, these will be assessed as a single case by the board, with users only able to approach the body once they have exhausted Facebook’s appeals process.

Every minute, 243,000 photos are uploaded to Facebook, according to the World Economic Forum.

In Q3 2019, 11.6 million pieces of content involving child nudity and sexual exploitation of children were removed from the platform, a substantial increase on the previous quarter.

Bullying, terrorist propaganda and fake accounts designed to spam or defraud are also spreading rapidly.

While Facebook regularly takes down thousands of posts and accounts, about 300,000 of those cases have been appealed since the Oversight Board was created last year.

Mr Hughes said the 20-person board, which includes academics, lawyers and journalists, ensures that fewer decisions about highly significant content issues are taken by Facebook alone – a move that aims to safeguard human rights and freedom of expression.

The board’s most recent decision, issued to Facebook on Tuesday, focuses on a case in the Netherlands, where the company removed a video showing a young child meeting adults with their faces painted black to portray “Zwarte Piet” – also referred to as “Black Pete".

The Oversight Board upheld Facebook’s decision after a majority found sufficient evidence of harm to justify the removal.

The body is also reviewing whether Facebook overstepped its decision to ban former US president Donald Trump from its platform in January.

Mr Trump was blocked on January 6 after sharing posts that encouraged his supporters to rally outside the US Capitol to protest the election results. Five people died in the melee.

Facebook ruled that Mr Trump was inciting violence and suspended him until the board concludes its assessment.