How powerful is Facebook’s ‘Supreme Court’ for speech?



  • KARACHI: Last week, Facebook appointed 20 people from round the world to serve on what is going to effectively be the social media network’s “Supreme Court” for speech, issuing rulings on what quite posts are going to be allowed and what should be taken down.

    The list features a former prime minister, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and a number of other constitutional law experts and rights advocates, including the Pakistani lawyer and founding father of Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), Nighat Dad.

    The creation of an oversight board by a social media company isn’t only a primary for internet regulation, but also for Pakistan because the country is now on the worldwide tech map with Ms Dad’s inclusion.

    While it’s set a replacement model for accountability on content management, to what extent will it shape the company’s policies?
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    Selection of cases

    The board will give users an opportunity to appeal against any wrongful removal of their content on Facebook and Instagram. Although, the board will only review a fraction of these appeals as a user must first exhaust Facebook’s appeals before they will involve the board.

    According to the board’s leadership, the panel will specialise in the “most challenging” content issues for Facebook, including in areas like hate speech, harassment and protecting people’s safety and privacy.

    Oversight board will issue rulings on what quite posts are going to be allowed and what should be taken down

    Besides user appeals, it’ll even be ready to hear cases that are referred by Facebook. Facebook will directly refer cases to the board that are significant and difficult.

    Significant, as defined within the bylaws, means the content in question involves real-world impact and issues that are important for public discourse.

    Difficult means the content raises questions on current policies or their enforcement, with strong arguments on each side for either removing or leaving up the content under review. The board has sole discretion to simply accept or reject cases that are referred through this process.

    Facebook has long faced criticism for high-profile content moderation issues, including removal of pro-Kashmir posts, hate speech in Myanmar against the Rohingya and other Muslims.

    Recently, the corporate included guidelines on pandemic content to its list of community standards. However, with the platform now relying largely on automated moderation, anti-vaccine activists and conspiracy theorists have already become adept at gaming the platform’s rules.

    Unless its policies and moderation improve, the board is a smaller amount likely to cause major change because the final judgment are going to be in accordance with Facebook’s community standards.

    Another challenge limiting its efforts is that the global scale at it which it operates. Facebook said the board members chosen collectively have lived in additional than 27 countries and speak a minimum of 29 languages.

    Globally, there are 2.5 billion people using the platform in additional than 100 languages.

    Regulation in Pakistan

    It is important to say that not all content are often submitted to the board for its review.

    The board’s decisions are going to be binding “unless implementation could violate the law”, Facebook said.

    This is the only reason why the board’s addition is a smaller amount likely to vary much for internet regulation in countries with repressive cyber laws, like Pakistan.

    During the primary half 2019, Pakistan reported the very best volume of content (31 per cent) to Facebook.

    In its transparency report, Facebook said it restricted 5,690 items within Pakistan. None of the 5,690 items from the Facebook’s transparency report were removed for violating its content policies but under Pakistan’s cybercrime law.

    The government has also introduced the web Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020.

    Under the new rules, social media platforms are going to be required to get rid of any ‘unlawful content’ acknowledged to them in writing or electronically signed email within 24 hours, and in emergency cases within six hours. With the web harm rules in effect, if as an example , the authority now specifies 2,000 items to Facebook for removal, the platform are going to be required to completely suits it.

    “Ultimately, Facebook has got to respect local law in every country it operates in, so governments are liberal to introduce laws and Facebook, and therefore the board, would need to follow those laws,” a spokesperson for the overview board told Dawn.

    Account suspensions not included

    Initially, the board will only review individual pieces of content, like specific posts, photos, videos and comments on Facebook and Instagram.

    The scope will expand within the future to incorporate other forms of content, for instance content that has been left up, also as pages, profiles, groups or events.

    Last year, Facebook removed 103 pages, groups and accounts on both Facebook and Instagram as a part of a network that originated in Pakistan. during a blogpost on the takedown, Facebook said it had found that the network was linked to employees of Pakistani military.

    The spokesperson said the accounts and pages removed over ‘coordinated inauthentic behaviour’ on Facebook won’t be reviewed by the panel for now as Facebook already partnered with “independent people” to review and document its CIB enforcement actions and therefore the results were an outcome of weeks or months of investigations by its teams.

    Dad’s role

    According to the board, members don’t represent individual countries when making decisions.

    Each case identified by the board’s case-selection committee are going to be assigned to a five-member panel, four picked randomly from the board at large and one “from among those board members who are from the region which the content primarily affects”.

    “A five-member panel will deliberate over a case of content implicating Pakistan would come with a minimum of one member from Central and South Asia, though this might not necessarily be Nighat Dad,” a board spokesperson told Dawn.

    As a part of vetting, new board members (including Ms Dad) are required to disclose any potential conflicts of interest, the board added.

    Regarding Ms Dad’s advocacy in Pakistan, the spokesperson said the DRF founder will not be advocating with Facebook on to take specific policy positions and can also not have an avenue for escalating content to the corporate as a digital rights activist, it said.

    “That said, others at Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), will remain engaged with Facebook — completely break away Nighat and her work on the Oversight Board,” the OB representative added.



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