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Long-awaited Facebook Oversight Board to Launch in October

FILE - The thumbs-up Like logo is shown on a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., April 14, 2020.

Facebook's highly anticipated independent oversight board, a group that will be empowered to overrule the company's leadership on issues pertaining to the platform's content moderation decisions, plans to launch in October, just in time for the November U.S. presidential election.

The board was created by Facebook after the platform was criticized for its handling of problematic content, most recently a backlash over its decision to take no action in response to posts from U.S. President Donald Trump containing misinformation about mail-in voting and inflammatory language directed toward the Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests that erupted over the summer.

Other platforms that contain user-generated content, such as Twitter, have taken measures to combat misinformation online, including attaching fact-checking warning labels to posts.

Facebook has not yet announced whether the board will hear cases related to the election. Representatives from the company said that the board did not consider cases involving Trump's posts in its preliminary hearings.

Reviewing removed posts

Members of the oversight board will review appeals only over posts that Facebook has taken down initially, instead of taking into consideration content that the company leaves up. It will also deal only with individual posts that fall under the areas where Facebook exercises editorial control.

Content that is regulated by Facebook includes algorithms that shape how much distribution a post receives, taking down or leaving up Facebook groups, pages, and events, and whether to leave specific pieces of content up on the site.

The board has been harshly criticized for starting by reviewing appeals concerning posts that were taken down, which experts say will have little impact on addressing problems like misinformation and hate speech that are rampant on the platform. Critics say that the long-awaited board has not moved fast enough to curb these issues before the election.

Prioritizing cases

According to the board's website, the criteria for the prioritization of cases has not been decided and is being debated by the board's 20 members. While tens of thousands of cases are expected to be presented to the board, leaders say that the board will take only a small number of cases each year, most likely in the "tens or hundreds."

Board members include lawyers, academics, journalists and policy experts from around the world, who collectively speak 27 different languages and represent having lived in 29 different countries.

Preparation leading up to the board's launch includes educating members on Facebook's community standards, international human rights law and receiving technical training on case management rolls that will allow members to receive and consider appeals.