Face­book over­sight board urged to de­mand real power

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By James Cook

FOR­MER Guardian ed­i­tor Alan Rus­bridger and oth­ers on Face­book’s new over­sight board are un­der pres­sure af­ter cam­paign­ers called for its US mem­bers to re­quest more power from the so­cial net­work or quit in protest.

The board is in dan­ger of be­com­ing a “tooth­less” body that pro­vides cover for Face­book’s mis­deeds un­less ac­tion is taken, ac­tivists at Ac­count­able Tech warned in an open let­ter.

In what will be seen as a chal­lenge to all mem­bers, they called for the five US ex­perts on the board to stand down un­less it is given more free­dom to tackle Face­book’s prob­lems.

The over­sight board will func­tion as a Supreme Court-style group, re­view­ing mod­er­a­tion de­ci­sions made by Face­book and po­ten­tially or­der­ing de­ci­sions to be re­served. The group will also be able to sug­gest changes to Face­book’s poli­cies.

How­ever, ac­tivists ar­gue that all real power re­mains with Mark Zucker­berg, the com­pany’s founder, and the board will have lit­tle im­pact.

Face­book has come un­der fire for a string of scan­dals, from al­low­ing hos­tile pow­ers to in­ter­fere in elec­tions to per­mit­ting far-Right hate speech. Mr Rus­bridger said last week that he did not know enough about the dif­fer­ing cul­tures of Twit­ter and Face­book to ex­plain why they took dif­fer­ent de­ci­sions on mod­er­at­ing Don­ald Trump’s posts.

Signed by Ac­count­able Tech and eight other groups, in­clud­ing Cli­mate Power 2020 and the League of Con­ser­va­tion Vot­ers, the let­ter de­mands stronger pow­ers be given to Over­sight Board mem­bers.

It says: “We humbly ask that you refuse to be com­plicit in this Face­book cha­rade – that you de­mand sweep­ing and im­me­di­ate changes, or walk away.”

The over­sight board an­nounced this month that it will not start re­view­ing Face­book’s de­ci­sions un­til late au­tumn.

Ac­count­able Tech an­nounced last month that it would spend $25,000 (£19,700) on Face­book ad­verts tar­get­ing the US-based mem­bers of the board.

Ni­cole Gill, the group’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, said at the time: “It’s un­ac­cept­able for the board to be side­lined and es­cape scru­tiny.”

Alan Rus­bridger, the for­mer Guardian ed­i­tor, is among the mem­bers of the new over­sight board at tech gi­ant Face­book

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