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OTI: Facebook Content Board Must be Diverse, Transparent, Accountable

The Open Technology Institute (OTI) is urging Facebook to make sure its new content decision oversight board is transparent, accountable, and reflects diverse perspectives.

Related: Facebook's Zuckerberg Calls for Edge Regs

Under pressure from inside the Beltway on issues like conservative bias, Russian election meddling, hate speech and more, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced late last year that the company would be moving from a reactive to a proactive approach to monitoring content, saying that would include independent oversights, transparency, government regulation and an oversight board with this charter.

Facebook also sought public input on the process, which OTI has been supplying.

Here are the baseline elements OTI, whose funders include the foundations of Google's Eric Schmidt and Microsoft's Bill Gates, would like to see Facebook commit to:

1. "Ensuring diverse perspectives are represented on the Board;

2. "Protecting the Board’s independence and legitimacy;

3. "Empowering the Board to provide meaningful input on content policy development;

4. "Ensuring the Board fosters public dialogue, awareness and engagement around the Board and its operations; and

5. "Promoting transparency and accountability around the Board’s decisions and operations."

"Facebook has accrued a significant amount of power when it comes to the management of online speech and expression," said OTI policy program associate Spandana Singh. "We hope that the creation of this Oversight Board, if done with regard to the principles we outline in our comments, will increase transparency and accountability around the platform’s content takedown decisions. In particular, it is critical that Facebook ensures the Board operates independently, represents the diversity of Facebook’s global base of users and plays a meaningful role in developing content policy."

Related: Facebook Expects to Pay up to $5 Billion in FTC Settlement

Edge providers are under pressure from Congress to take more ownership of their content, otherwise they could potentially lose the Communications Decency Act's Sec. 230 protection from liability over that content, the idea being to protect social media as a public square. Increasingly legislators from both sides are questioning just how neutral that square is given issues like algorithimic discrimination and the allegations of a Silicon Valley bias against conservative speech, a concern Zuckerberg says he acknowledges while arguing there is no systematic bias at his company. 

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.