Facebook critics launch their own oversight board as 'emergency response' ahead of election

A lit sign is seen at the entrance to Facebook's corporate headquarters location in Menlo Park, California on March 21, 2018.
(Image credit: JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

If you want an oversight board done right, you have to launch it yourself, Facebook's critics have evidently decided.

Facebook is launching an independent oversight board, a so-called "Supreme Court" to which moderation decisions can be appealed, but on Friday, 25 experts and outspoken Facebook critics announced they're forming the "Real Facebook Oversight Board," their own group that will "analyze and critique Facebook's content moderation decisions, policies and other platform issues in the run-up to the presidential election and beyond," NBC News reports.

The advocacy group The Citizens is behind the Real Facebook Oversight Board, which consists of civil rights leaders and academics among other experts who reportedly plan to meet weekly over Zoom. The Citizens' founder, journalist Carole Cadwalladr, described this as an "emergency response."

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"We know there are going to be a series of incidents leading up to the election and beyond in which Facebook is crucial," Cadwalladr told NBC News. "This is a real-time response from an authoritative group of experts to counter the spin Facebook is putting out."

Though Facebook's oversight board is launching in October, according to The Verge, given how long the process is expected to take, "that will be too late to hear cases related to the U.S. election." Facebook, according to NBC News, "isn't welcoming the outside board" and has expressed disappointment over its formation, and The Verge notes the board "will hold no power and is largely meant as a symbolic gesture."

An apparent pitch deck for the project reported on by Axios, though, says it plans to use "stunts, viral video, celebrity endorsement and skillful media management to throw a spotlight on the real-time threats to democracy," adding, "Democracy needs its own PR team and creative agency. We are it."

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.