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Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board

Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board
© JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

A group of Facebook’s most vocal critics on Friday announced the creation of a group to analyze and weigh in on the platform’s moderation decisions as the company’s own independent oversight board has yet to launch.

The new group, which calls itself the Real Facebook Oversight Board, consists of more than two dozen academics, journalists and civil rights leaders.

Its meetings will be available to the public, with the first one scheduled to be streamed on Facebook Live on Wednesday hosted by New York Times contributing opinion writer Kara Swisher.

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Many members of the new group have been critical of the pace of Facebook’s Oversight Board launch.

CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Hospitals brace for more cyberattacks as coronavirus cases rise | Food service groups offer local alternatives to major delivery apps | Facebook says it helped 4.4M people register to vote Facebook says it's helped 4.4M people register to vote this year Lou Dobbs goes after Lindsey Graham: 'I don't know why anyone' would vote for him  MORE first revealed his intentions to launch an oversight board in November 2018, but he didn't formally announce the makeup of the board until May of this year.

The board, which is meant to have final and binding say over whether content should be allowed on, or taken down from, Facebook’s platforms, will consist of 20 experts who are scheduled to begin reviewing content cases in October.

But the board will not be fully operational until after the U.S. elections on Nov. 3.

Members of the alternative board, launched by British advocacy group The Citizens, say that timeline is not fast enough.

“Facebook is already being used to suppress the Black vote in 2020 and we’ve seen all sorts of attacks on Black voters across the country,” Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, said in a statement. “We’re seeing an unprecedented amount of disinformation and misinformation travelling across the platform.”

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Other members of the alternative board include Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblat, former head of election integrity operations for political ads at Facebook Yael Eisenstat, early Facebook investor Roger McNamee and Shoshana Zuboff, author of the influential of "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.”

The new board will host weekly public discussions on a wide range of issues including voter suppression, election security and misinformation.

A spokesperson for Facebook defended the official oversight board and dismissed the alternative group as another channel for critics.

"We ran a year-long global consultation to set up the Oversight Board as a long-lasting institution that will provide binding, independent oversight over some of our hardest content decisions,” the spokesperson said. "The members were selected for their deep experience in a diverse range of issues. This new effort is mostly longtime critics creating a new channel for existing criticisms.”

The need for an oversight board is seen as particularly crucial given that President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska NYT: Trump had 7 million in debt mostly tied to Chicago project forgiven MORE and some of his allies have started questioning the legitimacy of the election, claiming without evidence that mail-in voting will lead to widespread voter fraud.

Facebook’s largely hands-off approach to Trump’s posts have led to criticism, especially when it left up a post where he said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” in response to protests following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

--Updated at 1:26 p.m.