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Facebook critics form rival oversight board over concerns of threat to democracy

Jamie Harris, PA Science Technology Reporter
·1-min read

A team of academics and civil rights activists have come together to scrutinise Facebook amid concerns about the upcoming US election and its handling of hate speech.

The group is called the Real Facebook Oversight Board, in a deliberate swipe at Facebook’s own long-awaited independent Oversight Board, due for launch in October.

Former editor-in-chief of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, is among the members to have been appointed on the official Facebook board.

First announced last year, the board will have the ability to overrule Facebook’s decisions on content moderation, and individuals who disagree with a Facebook content decision will also be able to appeal to the board.

But critics have become increasingly frustrated over the speed with which the official board is being put into action and decided to form a non-official group of their own, led by UK-based advocacy group The Citizens.

MP and former Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chair Damian Collins is among the members on the Real Facebook Oversight Board.

Leaders from Color of Change, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which headed up the #StopHateForProfit Facebook advert boycott campaign, are also involved.

“Facebook is already being used to suppress the black vote in 2020 and we’ve seen all sorts of attacks on black voters across the country,” said Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented amount of disinformation and misinformation travelling across the platform.”

Speaking about its official board, Facebook said it “ran a year-long global consultation to set up the Oversight Board as a long-lasting institution that will provide binding, independent oversight over some of our hardest content decisions”.