Why Mark Zuckerberg’s Oversight Board May Kill His Political Ad Policy
No example proves this more than his stance on political advertising. Per his command, Facebook allows politicians to say anything in ads short of illegalities. They can lie with impunity. It’s a controversial, maybe indefensible stand. Employees have begged him to reconsider. Legislators threaten that it’s a big reason Facebook should be regulated. Critics charge that it’s proof that Facebook is breaking democracy. Hillary Clinton has called him an "authoritarian" because of his policy. But Zuckerberg is adamant that it’s up to Facebook’s users to determine for themselves whether politicians are lying. So, no fact-checking those ads.
But beginning at some point later this year, Zuckerberg’s word will no longer always be the final one. After nearly two years, Facebook is almost done setting up its Oversight Board, an independent panel with the power to override Facebook’s most contentious decisions on controversial content. Today, Facebook is releasing a set of bylaws that will determine how the board will operate. (The bylaws still need to be approved by the board when it is convened.) Next month it will reveal the names of the first set of content arbiters, starting with around 20. It will eventually grow to 40.
Think of the Oversight Board as kind of a Supreme Court of Facebook, the top court of appeal on what goes down and remains on the News Feed and Instagram. (At first, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Facebook Dating aren’t in play.) Some call it a bold experiment in corporate government. Others say it’s an elaborate exercise in passing the buck. But whether you’re skeptical or optimistic about it, it’s undeniably a huge effort. Facebook is spending well over $100 million and building an elaborate infrastructure to support the board, both internally and for the independent trust that will operate the board. Even more emphatic is the power it is transferring to the board on determining the fate of the disputed content the members rule on. As with the Supremes, board decisions are final. Facebook has vowe