Establishing Structure and Governance for an Independent Oversight Board

By Brent Harris, Director of Governance and Global Affairs

“The content policies we write and the decisions we make every day matter to people. That’s why we always have to strive to keep getting better. The Oversight Board will make Facebook more accountable and improve our decision-making. This charter is a critical step towards what we hope will become a model for our industry.”

– Nick Clegg, VP Global Affairs and Communications, Facebook

Since November, when Mark Zuckerberg first wrote about his vision for how content should be governed on Facebook, a team within our company has been working to design and implement this idea, with the help of input and feedback from people all around the world.

Today, we’re announcing more details on the structure of the Oversight Board and its relationship to Facebook in the form of a charter. This central governing document defines the board’s mandate and describes its relationship to Facebook. It establishes its membership, governance and decision-making authority, and it sets out parameters for things like the size, scope and power of the board. In the coming months this charter will be available in multiple languages on a new board website.

Accompanying the charter is a letter from Mark Zuckerberg explaining the board’s purpose and goals.

Governing Documents

This charter is only one of many documents that will govern the Oversight Board. We are also crafting bylaws which will provide greater operational detail on the board’s institutional independence and rules of procedure. These bylaws will include accountability mechanisms, such as a code of conduct and board member disqualifications. They will also elaborate on the processes for assembling panels, developing case materials and implementing board decisions. While we are preparing these bylaws on the board’s behalf, ultimately the board alone will have the ability to change them.

Governance Structure

We often received a key piece of feedback: make sure the board is independent from Facebook. One way we’re addressing this is by establishing an independent trust. The Oversight Board, the trust and Facebook will have separate roles and responsibilities, all of which will work to ensure that the board is set up for success.

As part of our overall transparency efforts, trust documents will be publicly released, and these will establish the formal relationship between the board, the trust and Facebook.

Design Decisions for the Board

Along with the charter, we are providing a summary which breaks down the elements from the draft charter, the feedback we’ve received, and the rationale behind our decisions in relation to both. Many issues have spurred healthy and constructive debate. Four areas in particular were:

Process
Both Facebook and its users will be able to refer cases to the board for review. For now, the board will begin its operations by hearing Facebook-initiated cases. The system for users to initiate appeals to the board will be made available over the first half of 2020.

At a high level, the following graphic outlines the basic process by which the board will select, review and decide upon cases and how Facebook will implement and respond to those decisions:

As a first step, we’ve identified guidelines for how we will prioritize our most significant and difficult cases for Facebook’s referrals to the board. Our current thinking focuses on indicators that demonstrate cases are both significant and difficult:

While today is an important milestone, there is much more work we still need to do.

Over the next few months, we will continue testing our assumptions and ensuring the board’s operational readiness. In addition, we will focus on sourcing and selecting of board members, finalizing the bylaws that will complement the charter, and working toward having the board deliberate on its first cases early in 2020.

We are committed to consulting outside experts at every step, and we look forward to providing more updates on our progress.