It looks like Facebook’s long-awaited independent Oversight Board, which aims to look after content governance and enforcement on the platform, won’t be arriving in time to oversee the US elections.
The current members of the Oversight Board estimate that the functionalization of the independent governing board will only begin in October. Various activists and tech critics are furious over this delay in the launch of the project, mostly because everyone is being cautious, disgruntled by the Cambridge Analytics fiasco. They claim that it takes months to solve a case, and the US elections are fast approaching. Thus, the board will not be able to take up and solve cases related to the presidential election in time.
The Oversight Board said, “We are currently testing the newly deployed technical systems that will allow users to appeal and the Board to review cases. Assuming those tests go to plan, we expect to open user appeals in mid to late October. Building a process that is thorough, principled and globally effective takes time and our members have been working aggressively to launch as soon as possible.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had first announced the idea of an independent Oversight Board in 2018 after the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal. This board is supposed to be independent within Facebook and is assigned to make critical judgments over some difficult content decisions. Earlier this year in May, Facebook had announced the first 20 members of the 40-member Oversight Board, consisting of people from academia, legal, governance and many other fields. Thus, it was being speculated that the board will be up and functioning in summer. However, later the members of the board confirmed that the Oversight Board wouldn’t be activated until late fall of 2020.
Interestingly, a group of academic and law professionals have formed an informal group called ‘Real Facebook Oversight Board’, taking a dig at the existing Oversight board of Facebook. This group includes early Facebook investor Roger McNamee, Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr – known for her story on the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff as members, and criticizes Facebook for its slow-paced action towards launching the board ahead of the US elections.
Shoshana Zuboff in a statement calls Facebook as “a roiling cauldron of lies, violence and danger destabilizing elections and democratic governance around the world”. This informal group has been formed just as a symbolic gesture against Facebook’s operations but it does plan to hold board meetings, with one on the 1st of October itself, to talk about the failure of Facebook’s existing policies.