What is Facebook’s Oversight Board?

You might have seen the phrases “Donald Trump” and “Oversight Board” floating around the news. Here’s why. 

Earlier this week, the Oversight Board decided to uphold (decided not to change) Facebook’s ban on former U.S. President Donald Trump’s page. His account was taken down on January 7, a day after the insurrection that occurred on Capitol Hill. However, the suspension will be revisited in six months, which leaves an opportunity for Trump to return to the platform. 

But…but…what is the Oversight Board? 

Simply put, the Oversight Board (funded by Facebook) is kind of like Facebook’s equivalent of the Supreme Court. Its purpose? Oversight (shocker). But seriously, it’s an independent body that allows Facebook users to object and challenge moderation decisions that Facebook has made. The Board has made itself a very clear third party from Facebook. 

It was established in 2020, with 20 members (to eventually be expanded to 40). Members include political leaders, human rights activists and journalists who all deliberate Facebook’s content decisions. Specifically, the Board provides the public with the opportunity to appeal decisions by Facebook to remove content that violates its policies against harmful and hateful posts. 

What does the Board not do? 

It’s important to distinguish what the Board does not do:

  • Does not have a say in how Facebook operates 
  • Does not have the power to impose penalties on company executives for actions 

The decisions are binding 

All decisions by the Board on matters relating to the topics of whether content or individual accounts should be allowed to remain on the platform, or be taken down, are binding. This means that what the Board says is final. Not even Mark Zuckerberg himself has the power to overturn decisions made. 

How does the Board function? 

The Board takes on cases that are referred to by Facebook or the public who disagree with Facebook taking down their content or leaving someone else’s up. The Board selects five members from the panel, with at least one person from the country where the case is based. The selected panel consults with experts and organisations. The panel then attempts to reach a unanimous decision, however, only a simple majority is required.

After a decision is made, it is then presented to the rest of the Board, who can overrule the decision if the majority of board members disagree with it.

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