Facebook Oversight Board to promote rights of users – Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei

The establishment of an Oversight Board to make rulings about content moderation on Facebook and Instagram indicates the company’s determination to promote the rights of users and freedom of expression, Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei, a human rights lawyer and Programme Manager at the Open Society Initiative for West Africa has said.

The Ghanaian who has been appointed by Facebook to serve as a Board Member of the newly constituted body said the board was expected to provide an avenue for people to challenge Facebook’s decisions on content moderation adding that its decisions would be transparent and binding.

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.

Facebook says it will provide $130 million dollars in a trust, to support the board’s operations, allowing it to operate at least for two full terms of approximately six years.

Speaking in an interview with the Ghanaian Times she said the establishment of the board showed that the tech giant had seriously taken the criticism levelled against it and had moved to address it.

“It is my expectation that my membership can help address some of the criticisms levelled against Facebook. We will work to promote freedom of expression and respect for human rights,” she said.

She said the need for respect for human rights and freedom of expression on social media were very critical and should not be undermined.

The Board she said is a collection of experts who would bring their expertise to bear in handling issues and would be an advocate for the community supporting individuals’ right to free expression.

The Board she explained is an independent body, and would give people confidence that their views will be heard, and that the company’s doesn’t have the ultimate power over their expression.

The 20 member board Ms Asare-Kyei said would review certain content decisions by Facebook and Instagram and make binding decisions based on respect for freedom of expression and human rights.

“My focus is on the Board’s role in improving transparency and accountability, and creating an appeal process where people can bring their content issues. I feel strongly that the Board needs to be truly representative, not just in terms of geography, but age, subject matter and breadth of issues covered as well.” she said.

She said the board would hear appeals by users and come out with decisions based on transparency and fairness.

The Oversight Board she said would commence hearing cases in the coming months adding that members of the board have had some virtual meetings.

All decisions will be made public, and Facebook must respond publicly to them. All Board decisions will be published on its website, while protecting the identity and privacy of those involved.

Additionally, the Board will issue a public annual report on its work to evaluate how the Board is fulfilling its purpose and whether members believe Facebook is living up to its commitments.

Ms Asare-Kyei joins two other Africans – Julie Owono, a digital rights advocate and Executive Director of Internet Sans Frontières from Cameroon and Maina Kiai, a human rights activist and Director of Human Rights Watch’s Global Alliances and Partnerships programme from Kenya  on the board.  

BY DAVID ADADEVOH

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