It’s been more than a year since Facebook committed to creating its independent oversight body – but with the U.S. elections approaching fast, technology critics are getting nervous.
On Friday, a coalition of scholars and legal experts announced the formation of the Real Facebook Oversight Board, an informal group that will publicize Facebook’s slow action ahead of the elections, including early Facebook investor Roger McNamee and Harvard -Professor Shoshana Zuboff. The group also includes heads of the #StopHateForProfit campaign, which organized a boycott of Facebook advertisers earlier this year.
The group plans to hold regular “board meetings” to discuss platform policy failures. The first is to be hosted by Kara Swisher on October 1st. In a statement, Zuboff described Facebook as “a cauldron of lies, violence and the destabilizing dangers of elections and democratic governance around the world. “
The group also includes Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr, best known for her work on the history of Cambridge Analytica. “This is an emergency response,” Cadwalladr told NBC News this morning. “We know there will be a number of incidents ahead of the elections and beyond where Facebook is critical.”
The board has no power and is largely intended as a symbolic gesture. Still, it has put new pressure on Facebook’s oversight board, which was originally slated for this summer. The members now estimate that the project will start in October. With months in the process of fully resolving a case, it will be too late to hear cases related to the US election.
“We are currently testing the newly implemented technical systems that will allow users to appeal and the board to review cases,” said the Oversight Board. “Assuming these tests go according to plan, we expect to open appeals to users in mid to late October. It takes time to build a thorough, principled, globally effective process, and our members have worked aggressively to get it started as soon as possible. ”
Still, the delay has sparked a new wave of skepticism about the project.
Accountable Tech, a nonprofit that has long criticized Facebook for its moderation mistakes, said the failure to monitor the campaign content underscores the project’s more general failure. “If board members want to make significant changes instead of continuing to support Facebook’s Potemkin Court, they should seek real authority or step down and speak out,” the group said in a statement.