Journalists, critics, scholars form independent 'Real Facebook Oversight Board' | Inquirer News

Journalists, critics, scholars form independent ‘Real Facebook Oversight Board’

/ 04:59 PM October 04, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — A group of journalists, critics, and scholars around the world, including Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, has launched an independent Facebook oversight board seeking to hold the social media giant to account over its inaction against right-wing extremists and supremacists using the platform to weaponize disinformation and legitimize violence.

The “Real Facebook Oversight Board,” said British journalist and Pulitzer finalist Carole Cadwalladr, was formed as an “emergency response” especially as America inches closer to a critical midterm elections while still reeling from months of fierce racial protests amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In May, Facebook announced that it would be forming its own quasi-independent oversight board that could recommend content moderation and enforcement measures. This followed immense public pressure for its creator, Mark Zuckerberg, to be held accountable for the site as it becomes a breeding ground for extremism and “fake news.”


“There are impressive academics on the Facebook oversight board it created, and we…really hope they can do something,” Cadwalladr said. “But (the reality is) the board will not be holding Facebook immediately to account at this critical time.”


“That was the whole point of doing this. This is an emergency response given the risks, we are sounding the alarm bell that (Facebook) really could be used to destroy US democracy,” she added.

Shoshanna Zuboff, Harvard professor and author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” said the group “demand(s) comprehensive action to ensure that Facebook cannot be weaponized to undermine the vote and with it American democracy.”

“We now approach the 59th minute in the 11th hour of the American crisis and the time for excuses and political deals is over,” she added. “This is an emergency intervention aimed at Mr. Zuckerberg and his employees.”

And the consequences of its continued inaction are dire, American civil rights leader Rashad Robinson pointed out. In the recent weeks, white supremacists have been using Facebook to organize militias online, culminating in the Sept. 4 Kenosha shooting that killed two people.

“Our blood will have to be shed before Facebook does anything unless policymakers and all of those who enabled Facebook step up and do something. This is our opportunity to set a new course,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ressa, whose own experiences with disinformation catapulted her into a prominent figure in the calls to hold Facebook more accountable, warned that these consequences playing out in the US can very well roll out in the Philippines as well.


“I understand Facebook’s role, we all do. But we also understand its immense power,” she said. “We want Facebook to take these actions to protect democracy not just in the US, but the global South (as it) suffers more. The way that it is now, as it comes to you, we will bear the brunt of that,” she added.

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