Facebook’s oversight board reveals first cases it will investigate

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Facebook’s independent oversight board has revealed the first cases it will investigate with powers to overturn decisions made by the social network.

The six to be selected include five user appeals and one case referred by Facebook, all of which were originally removed from the platform.

Users are able to turn to the Oversight Board once they have exhausted the company’s usual appeal process.

Since launching in October, the board has received more than 20,000 cases.

“As the board cannot hear every appeal, we are prioritising 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 Oversight Board said.

The first six cases looked at by the group include an appeal by an Instagram user whose photos included female breasts related to breast cancer symptoms.

Although the content was taken down for violating its rules on nudity, the social network later decided it removed the posts “in error” and reinstated it.

“We continue to welcome the board’s review of this case – any decision they make on the content will be binding, and we welcome any policy guidance related to it,” Facebook said.

The majority of cases concern hate speech matters, including comments made by a public figure about violence against French people, while a second is regarding a photo of a deceased child in connection with commentary on China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims.

Another is about historical photos purportedly showing churches in Baku, featuring a caption suggesting disdain for Azerbaijani people and support for Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

Elsewhere, the board will look at an appeal into a post which contained an alleged quote from Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany.

Meanwhile, the only case being scrutinised per a Facebook referral is in relation to a post in a group claiming hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin is a cure for Covid-19 and criticising the French government’s response to Covid-19.

Facebook said it sought guidance from the board because it found the matter “significant and difficult” as it “creates tension between our values of voice and safety”.

“While we are committed to preserving people’s ability to discuss and share information about the Covid-19 pandemic, and to debate the efficacy of potential treatments and mitigation strategies, we also want to limit the spread of false information that could lead to harm,” the social network said of the case.

Facebook will update each post to include details about the decision once the board has reach a verdict.

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