Facebook's new oversight board expects to hear cases this summer

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Facebook is finally nailing down timelines and procedures for its content oversight board. As part of a call discussing newly released bylaws, governance director Brent Harris revealed that the board should hear its first cases sometime this summer, with the initial board members unveiled in the "coming months" before then. Harris didn't give many clues as to who would be on the board, but he stressed that it would reflect the range of people on Facebook's platforms. It isn't a panel that "looks like Silicon Valley or looks like Facebook," he said.

As for the bylaws? For one, Facebook expects most cases to take 90 days between the initial appeal window, case prep, deliberation and implementation (if possible), but there will be a system for an "expedited review" if a response is so urgently needed that users can't afford to wait. The social network will normally implement decisions on individual content within a week, and provide responses to policy recommendations and follow-ups within 30 days.

Each case will be handled by one board member from the affected region as well as four random additional members. Each decision will be available in 18 different languages. There will also be dedicated administrative staff led initially by Thomas Hughes, previously the Executive Director of the digital rights group Article 19.

Just how Facebook handles requested changes will vary. It'll look at implementing content decisions "at scale" if it thinks a change might be better for everyone. Also, it'll have to take into account the feasibility of a given implementation -- it might be dictated by legal differences between regions, or varying cultural expectations. As before, though, it can override Facebook's leadership if a measure is legal.

The goal of the board remains the same. It's there to address controversial content choices and, ideally, set precedents that will guide Facebook's strategy for years to come. It might navigate volatile cultural disputes with less rouble. Of course, this could also spare Facebook leaders from the full wrath of angry users by foisting some of the responsibility on to the board.