Facebook Oversight Board Announces First Six Cases

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Facebook’s oversight board has announced the first cases it’s going to examine to determine if it will overturn the social media giant’s decisions to delete content. 

Created in October, the board’s apparent role will be to assess cases of Facebook and Instagram users who say their content was wrongly removed. 

"As the Board cannot hear every appeal, we are prioritizing cases that have the potential to affect lots of users around the world, are of critical importance to public discourse or raise important questions about Facebook's policies," the board said in a statement accompanying the announcement Tuesday. 

Of the first six cases the board will review, three involve so-called hate speech, a nudity case, a “dangerous individuals” case and a case about potential misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Reuters reports that since October, the board has received 20,000 cases for possible review. 

The COVID-19 case involved a post that was removed for “violence and incitement” because it was critical of France’s coronavirus strategy of "purportedly refusing authorization for use of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin against COVID-19 but authorizing promotional mail for remdesivir." 

"Facebook removed it for violating its policy on Violence and Incitement, and in its referral indicated to the Oversight Board that this case presents an example of the challenges faced when addressing the risk of offline harm that can be caused by misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic," the case synopsis says. 

Hate speech cases

Hate speech cases include a post by former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, which said, “Muslims have a right to be angry and kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.” 

Facebook says it was hate speech, but the poster said it was posted to draw attention to Mahathir’s “horrible words.” 

Another alleged hate speech post is of "two well-known photos of a deceased child lying fully clothed on a beach at the water’s edge" accompanied by Burmese text asking why there has been "no retaliation against China for its treatment of Uighur Muslims, in contrast to the recent killings in France relating to cartoons," according to the synopsis. 

The poster argued the content should not have been removed because it "meant to disagree with people who think the killer is right and to emphasize that human lives matter more than religious ideologies." 

The third hate speech case involves the removal of content showing the destruction of churches in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. The poster said, "their intention was to demonstrate the destruction of cultural and religious monuments." 

In a case Facebook says violated its nudity policy, a post about breast cancer prevention was removed for showing breasts. 

Another case is about the removal of an alleged quote attributed to Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, which the poster said made a point about current politics. 

The 20-member board will be divided into five-member panels to which the cases will be assigned, according to USA Today. The board said it is seeking public comment on the cases through December 8. Then, the board has 90 days to decide about each case.   

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