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Facebook pledges $130 million for oversight board, delays naming members until 2020

Firstpost logoFirstpost 13-12-2019 tech2 News Staff

Facebook will not announce the first members of its independent oversight board this year as it originally expected, the company said on Thursday.

The Facebook logo is displayed on the screen of a smartphone © Chesnot/Getty Images The Facebook logo is displayed on the screen of a smartphone

The new board will be able to make final decisions on whether individual pieces of content – such as a sensitive video or ad – should be displayed on the site, even overruling Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg.

"The board will have its own staff, independent from Facebook. To start, we expect this staff to include a director, case managers and dedicated staff members (or contracted services) who can support things such as the board’s communications, legal, human resources and research needs," says Facebook.

The board is one of Facebook's high-profile efforts to respond to criticism over how it handles problematic content and transparency around its decision-making.

However, the board's creation is behind schedule, the company confirmed in a blog post. It will now probably not name the board's co-chairs and first members until after January 2020.

"We’ve seen strong global interest in serving on the board, and this is a sign that we are heading in the right direction. While we had hoped to announce members by the end of this year, we’ve decided to take additional time to consider the many candidates who continue to be put forward," Facebook has announced.

Brent Harris, Facebook's head of governance and global affairs, said the delays were due to both the unforeseen complexities of creating a trust to ensure the board's independence and to the task of whittling down more than 1,000 nominees to no more than about 40 people.

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"This is not a 'move fast and break things' project," Harris told Reuters in a phone interview, referring to the social media network's early motto.

He said that the recommended members had come through Facebook's global consultation process in 88 countries, as well as the company's public online portal, which opened in September.

They range from "former heads of state to Nobel Prize winners to people who moderate groups on Facebook to local judges," Harris said.

Facebook now plans to announce the board's co-chairs, of which Harris said there would likely be three, and a first set of about 20 members after January.

Both Facebook and its users can submit cases to the board, and while the board cannot make policy, Facebook will be required to respond publicly to any recommendations it makes.

Facebook, which released an updated charter for the board in September, plans to recommend its bylaws in January. These will help create operating procedures, such as the process by which cases are selected.

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In a blog post, Facebook also said it had made an initial commitment of $130 million to the new trust, to cover operational costs for at least six years.

"Facebook has made an initial commitment of $130 million, which will cover operational costs such as office space, staff and travel expenses, and should allow the board to operate for at least its first two full terms, approximately 6 years. The board will submit a yearly budget to the trust for approval and disbursement of funds. Annual reports from the board and trust will help to document the health and effectiveness of the board, including its stewardship of these resources. Facebook intends to continue funding the board’s operations in the future, and these reports will be used to assess the need for additional, substantive and long-term funding," the blog post reads.

"The board is an actual institution; it's almost like its own start-up and it needs all the things that new institutions need" such as a legal team and recruiting mechanisms, said Heather Moore, a member of the Facebook team who developed the board's charter.

The company on Thursday also released the results of an assessment on the human rights impacts of content decisions by the board.

With inputs from Reuters

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