Facebook delays naming oversight board members until 2020


SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook will not announce the first members of its independent oversight board this year as it originally expected, the company said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of laptop users are seen next to a screen projection of a Facebook logo, March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

The new board will be able to make final decisions on whether individual pieces of content – such as a sensitive video or ad – should be displayed on the site, even overruling Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg.

The board is one of Facebook’s high-profile efforts to respond to criticism over how it handles problematic content and transparency around its decision-making.

However, the board’s creation is behind schedule, the company confirmed in a blog post. It will now probably not name the board’s co-chairs and first members until after January 2020.

Brent Harris, Facebook’s head of governance and global affairs, said the delays were due to both the unforeseen complexities of creating a trust to ensure the board’s independence and to the task of whittling down more than 1,000 nominees to no more than about 40 people.

“This is not a ‘move fast and break things’ project,” Harris told Reuters in a phone interview, referring to the social media network’s early motto.

He said that the recommended members had come through Facebook’s global consultation process in 88 countries, as well as the company’s public online portal, which opened in September.

They range from “former heads of state to Nobel Prize winners to people who moderate groups on Facebook to local judges,” Harris said.

Facebook now plans to announce the board’s co-chairs, of which Harris said there would likely be three, and a first set of about 20 members after January.

Both Facebook and its users can submit cases to the board, and while the board cannot make policy, Facebook will be required to respond publicly to any recommendations it makes.

Facebook, which released an updated charter for the board in September, plans to recommend its bylaws in January. These will help create operating procedures, such as the process by which cases are selected.

In a Thursday blog post, Facebook also said it had made an initial commitment of $130 million to the new trust, to cover operational costs for at least six years.

“The board is an actual institution; it’s almost like its own start-up and it needs all the things that new institutions need” such as a legal team and recruiting mechanisms, said Heather Moore, a member of the Facebook team who developed the board’s charter.

The company on Thursday also released the results of an assessment on the human rights impacts of content decisions by the board.

(This story adds dropped word in paragraph 4)

Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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