Everything you need to know about Facebook's Oversight Board

The social media giant has expanded the scope of its Oversight Board to now allow appeals to be made on content that has been left up. Here's an explainer of the process and what the board is aiming to achieve.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor
Image: Getty Images

You can appeal content left up on Facebook or Instagram to its Oversight Board, the social media giant has proclaimed. But what exactly does this mean and who is this Oversight Board?

What is the Oversight Board?

Firstly, the Oversight Board touts itself as being created to help Facebook answer questions around freedom of expression: What to take down, what to leave up, and why.

"The board uses its independent judgment to support people's right to free expression and ensure that those rights are being adequately respected," it writes. "The board's decisions to uphold or reverse Facebook's content decisions will be binding, meaning that Facebook will have to implement them, unless doing so could violate the law."

A few quick facts:

  • The board's purpose is to promote free expression
  • It will issue recommendations on the relevant Facebook Company Content Policy to Instagram and Facebook
  • And it will review a small number of "highly emblematic" cases and determine if decisions were made in accordance with Facebook's stated values and policies.

Who is on the board?

The board will eventually consist of 40 members from a range of disciplines.

Currently on the board are 10 men and nine women representing Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Denmark, Hungary, Israel, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Senegal, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

These individuals describe themselves as journalists, human rights lawyers, LGBTQ+ activists, allies to those from minority groups, and lawyers hailing from constitutional law, international policy, and intellectual property, among many, many other areas.

The board says it is be guided by five principles:

  1. Giving people a voice
  2. Promoting authenticity
  3. Creating a safe space
  4. Protecting privacy
  5. And encouraging dignity.

What's new?

Since October 2020, if content was removed from Facebook or Instagram and a user disagreed with Facebook's re-reviewed decision to keep it down, that content was eligible for final appeal to the Oversight Board.

Its scope has now been expanded -- the board can now review Facebook's decision to leave content on the platform. Content eligible for appeal to the board still includes posts/statuses, photos, videos, comments, and shares.

So how do you lodge an appeal?

The Oversight Board appeals process gives people a way to challenge content decisions on Facebook or Instagram.

If someone does not think that a piece of content should be on Facebook or Instagram, they first need to report the content to Facebook.

You can read how to report content in the first instance here.

If you have already requested that Facebook or Instagram reviews one of its content decisions and you disagree with the final decision, you can appeal to the board.

The board will evaluate submitted cases and consider eligible cases from those submissions. The board only selects a very small number of appeals for review.

If an appeal makes it through, a panel will deliberate the case. When the board selects a case to review, it will typically make its decision within 90 days.

The criteria:

  • Appeals must come from an active account-holder
  • Facebook must have already reviewed its initial decision
  • Content decisions must be eligible for appeal
  • And appeals must be submitted within 15 days from the time Facebook or Instagram sends an update about its final content policy decision.

The process:

  1. Write your appeal: Explain how Facebook or Instagram got your decision wrong
  2. The board selects your appeals for review: It looks for appeals that will help improve Facebook's and Instagram's policies
  3. The final decision on selected appeals is made: The board will decide whether to overturn Facebook's or Instagram's original decision.

To make an appeal, click here.


Will the board actually overturn any decisions already made?

Currently, there are eight decisions made by the board up for scrutiny from the public.

"The Oversight Board reviews a selected number of highly emblematic cases and determines whether Facebook's decisions were made in accordance with its stated values. The Board is committed to publishing its decisions and rationale," it said.

In the eight cases available, the board upheld Facebook's decision on two occasions, overturned the decision on five, and the remaining one became unavailable for review by the board as a result of user action.

You can look at the past decisions here.


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