Why Facebook's Oversight Board Appeals Won't Help

The real issues have still not been addressed

Key Takeaways

  • Facebook users can now appeal content to the Oversight Board they think should be removed from the platform. 
  • In theory, the new appeals process could help with harassment or misinformation on the platform. 
  • Experts say people could also take advantage of the process and misuse it.
A smartphone laying on a glasstop table next to a laptop, displaying facebook on the screen.

Time Bennett / Unsplash

Facebook’s Oversight Board will now accept appeals over content people want to be removed, but for the average user, not much will change. 

Until now, people could only appeal to restore content that Facebook took down, but the latest update allows users to appeal to the board what content they think needs to be removed. Experts say it’s a step in the right direction to make content moderation on the platform better, but, overall, won’t address Facebook's real issues.

"I know [Facebook has] a diverse panel, but I think Facebook has a long way to go, and this is just a drop in the ocean," Tom Leach, the co-founder and director of Hike Agency, told Lifewire over the phone. 

"It’s nice to have this independent board, but it doesn't feel like much progress."

A New Appeals Process 

The Oversight Board was created last year as a mini-judicial branch within Facebook's empire. The 40-member group creates a checks-and-balances system for the social media giant, with the board at the top of the decision-making process. 

"As content will be live on Facebook and Instagram, many people will be able to report the same piece of content," the Oversight Board wrote in its announcement of the new appeals process

"In these cases, multiple user appeals will be gathered into a single case file for the Board. As multiple users can report the same content, this means the Board may consider multiple submissions from users on a single case."

"The Oversight Board is simply a way of outsourcing responsibility to a third party with highly limited powers."

The policy change could make people more aware and cautious of what they post and share, so their entire page will not be reported through the process.

Sonya Schwartz, the founder of Her Norm, said that unreasonable decisions about content taken down or complaints being ignored could be significantly eliminated.

"The platform will have a higher chance of accommodating the needs and hearing objections from the users," Schwartz wrote to Lifewire in an email. 

"It will also intensify its adherence to its published rules. Users that are being harassed, bullied, and other inhumane acts will now be able to do something more significant to protect themselves."

Ignoring the Real Issues 

However, Leach said there are still some notable holes in the appeals process. 

"If a particular page has a lot of fans and rallies them all to appeal something, they can spam that system and clog it up," he said.

Andrew Selepak, a social media professor at the University of Florida, agreed that opening the door for users to flag what they want to remove will flood Facebook with requests for content removal, especially if they see something that opposes their political or cultural beliefs. 

A silhouette of a hand holding a judges gavel.

Aitor Diago / Getty Images

"Facebook handing the reins over to users to act as a thought police will only lead to misuse, anger about posts being taken down or not being taken down, and users spending less time on Facebook and looking for alternatives where their voices are not banned, censored, or harassed with removal," Selepak wrote to Lifewire in an email.

Others say the Oversight Board is simply not going to be the answer for Facebook’s deep-rooted issues, no matter what good or bad things come of the new appeals process.

The Real Facebook Oversight Board, a group created by the nonprofit All the Citizens to hold Facebook accountable, said that the Oversight Board is Facebook’s way to refuse "to take responsibility for dangerous and false content across its platforms."

"Instead of asking hard questions about how its platform was used to facilitate an insurrection, it has set up a pseudo-court of appeal," the Real Facebook Oversight Board wrote in response to the appeals update. 

"It’s nice to have this independent board, but it doesn't feel like much progress."

"The Oversight Board is simply a way of outsourcing responsibility to a third party with highly limited powers."

Leach added that Facebook’s attempts at making progress are ultimately always for the benefit of the platform, itself, rather than its 2.8 billion users. 

"It feels like every step [Facebook] makes they are choosing one side over the other, and it’s whatever side that pays the most money," Leach said.

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