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Experts weigh in on Facebook’s new Oversight Board

Daphne, thanks again for joining us for this discussion. I've read some of the things you've written about the Oversight Board in a variety of places, but maybe for those who haven't, you could summarize your position a bit before we get started. Is it a valuable effort with some flaws, or a fundamentally doomed exercise in PR, or somewhere in between?

Mathew Ingram invited Daphne Keller to contribute

Daphne Keller

It's all of the above! The Oversight Board emerged from a systemic problem with major platforms' decisions about our online speech. No one liked the platforms deciding these things, but no one really wanted governments to do it either. So it was inevitable that someone would try a third way – setting up some other set of deciders. Facebook was arguably feeling the most pain from the current situation, and has plenty of money to experiment with. So it wasn’t too surprising when they were the ones to take the plunge.

It is very much in Facebook’s interest to make someone else be the decider for hard calls – especially the hard calls that aren’t ultimately all that important to Facebook, because they don’t affect its business interests or aren’t connected to values that are especially important to Mark and other top leaders. The company is tired of being yelled at about controversial takedown decisions – especially the ones where, no matter what choice it makes, 49-ish percent of people will be unhappy. Being able to pass the buck to the Board will no doubt cause many within Facebook to heave a sigh of relief.

There is a lot to admire about the oversight board. I hope they are as legimate in the public eye as possible, and I hope they make wise decisions. But there are real limits to what they can do - especially by just hearing a scant number of cases every year. So IMO we should watch, wish them luck, but for now not make any policy predictions that depend on their success.

Read the full interview at the Columbia Journalism Review