Oversight Board to Start Hearing Cases

By Brent Harris, Director of Governance and Global Affairs

Note: For future Facebook updates about Oversight Board cases, please visit the Transparency Center

Starting today, if your content is removed from Facebook or Instagram and you have exhausted your appeals with Facebook, you’ll be able to appeal your case to the Oversight Board, a global body of experts separate from Facebook that will make independent and binding decisions on the cases they choose to hear.

In 2018, Mark Zuckerberg first outlined a vision for a new chapter in online governance, writing that “Facebook should not make so many important decisions about free expression and safety on our own.” The Oversight Board is the realization of that vision, and over the next few weeks, our nearly 3 billion users will have access to independent review of difficult content decisions.

Facebook has committed to enforcing the board’s decisions on individual pieces of content, and to carefully considering and transparently responding to any policy recommendations. The board will make decisions on which cases to take, selecting from both cases appealed by users and cases referred by Facebook, and they will do so based on criteria laid out in their announcement today. 

The Path to the Oversight Board

Over the past two years, Facebook conducted a global consultation process that culminated in the creation of the Oversight Board’s trust, charter, bylaws, case management tool, and a Facebook internal team to implement the board’s decisions.

In May 2020, after the completion of a global search process, the board announced its first 20 members. 

Since then, Board members have been undergoing a rigorous process of orientation that includes training on Facebook’s content enforcement, policies, and undergoing simulations of the case decision-making process. In parallel, the board’s administration has also built out support structures for operations. And we have created a case management tool, so Board members can have a secure and privacy-protective way of selecting, reviewing, hearing and making decisions on cases.

How Do I Appeal My Case?

Going forward, people who have (1) appealed eligible Facebook or Instagram content decisions and (2) have exhausted appeals with Facebook, will be issued an Oversight Board Reference ID in their Support Inbox on Facebook or Support Requests section in Instagram. People can then take this Reference ID to the Oversight Board website, to submit their case for review by the board. At that time, they will also have the opportunity to provide a statement about why they are contesting Facebook’s decision, explain how or why they think Facebook got the decision wrong, and share additional context about the post in question, including their motivation for posting.

As with all Facebook products, we will be rolling out the ability to appeal to the Oversight Board to people across the world in waves to ensure stability of the product experience for users. We expect everyone on Facebook and Instagram eligible to refer cases to the Oversight Board to technically be able to do so over the coming few weeks.

See how to request a review by the Oversight Board.

How Will the Oversight Board Select Cases?

The Oversight Board will select cases from among those referred to it by people who use Facebook or Instagram, or by Facebook itself. The board will have sole discretion as to which cases to hear, except in exceptional circumstances when Facebook refers a case for expedited review, where the board will accept and review the case as quickly as possible. 

At launch, because of the way Facebook’s existing content moderation systems work, users will only be able to appeal to the board in cases where Facebook has removed their content. However, our goal is to bring all types of content outlined in the bylaws into scope as quickly as possible, and we’re building the tools and systems we need to make this possible;   for example, if a person thinks a piece of content posted by someone else should be taken down or a Group is violating our Community Standards and should be removed. In any event, decisions about content that has been left up by Facebook are very much in scope from Day 1, since Facebook can directly refer such content to the board. 

The board has said it will select their first case to hear within the next few weeks, and according to the bylaws, Board decisions will be issued and implemented within 90 days of Facebook’s final decision on a case.

Case timeline visual

How Will Facebook Decide What to Refer to the Board?

According to the Oversight Board bylaws, as part of the regular case submission process. Facebook may refer “significant and difficult” content decisions directly to the Oversight Board, at which time the individual who posted the content in question will be notified and given the opportunity to provide a statement. We have begun the process for selecting cases to refer to the board and will refer cases that are geographically diverse, cover a wide range of violation types found in our Community Standards, and represent both content removed as well as content left up. Similar to user appeals, the board will choose which, if any, of the Facebook referred cases to review, and will then make a decision that is binding on Facebook. In addition to the normal Facebook referred cases pathway, Facebook is able to obtain an urgent review of content decisions in exceptional circumstances via expedited review.

Infographic showing Case Pathways to the Oversight Board

Updates to the Oversight Board Trust and Bylaws

In December, Facebook established an independent Oversight Board Trust to safeguard the board’s financial and decision-making independence from Facebook. The Trust and its trustees are responsible for facilitating financial and legal oversight over the Oversight Board — further removing Facebook from any involvement in the board’s operations. The trustees will not make content decisions or policy recommendations.

Today, the Oversight Board announced the first individual trustee, who will serve as chairperson of the Trust, Mr. Paul G. Haaga, Jr. Mr. Haaga is an experienced manager and trustee of nonprofit and for-profit organizations of various sizes and was appointed by Facebook based on his qualifications and experience. In addition to Mr. Haaga, future trustees will be selected based on their experience in holding positions of a legal, financial or fiduciary capacity, as well as their experience in matters of institutional oversight and governance.

Finally, as part of today’s announcement, Facebook and the Oversight Board Trust have agreed to several procedural updates to the Trust Agreement. The changes reflect, in more detail, the responsibility of the trustees with respect to potential conflicts of interest and they make procedural updates to allow for more efficient operations.

We are extremely grateful for all who have made the Oversight Board possible and look forward to implementing its decisions.


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