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Un-stream of the day! How to take down harmful social content

The Oversight Board will begin accepting cases from social media users who believe harmful content was wrongfully allowed to remain on the platforms.

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The Oversight Board announced it will begin accepting cases from Facebook and Instagram users who believe the company wrongfully allowed harmful content to remain on its platform. This new capability, long-sought by advocates of independent content moderation, represents an important step toward delivering a more principled and transparent model of content moderation. Decisions made through the Board’s independent judgment are binding on Facebook. 

“Enabling users to appeal content they want to see removed from Facebook is a significant expansion of the Oversight Board’s capabilities” says Thomas Hughes, director of the Oversight Board Administration. “The Board was created to ensure that fewer decisions about highly significant content issues be taken by Facebook alone, and that better decisions can be delivered through an independent and transparent process that works to safeguard human rights and freedom of expression. This announcement is another step towards realising this.” 

Since October 2020, users have been able to appeal to the Oversight Board about their own content being removed. The Oversight Board’s most recent decision was issued to Facebook today, on a case from the Netherlands, where the company removed a video showing a young child meeting adults with their faces painted black, dressed to portray “Zwarte Piet” – also referred to as “Black Pete.” The Oversight Board upheld Facebook’s decision after a majority found sufficient evidence of harm to justify the removal. They argued the content included caricatures which are linked to racist stereotypes and are considered by parts of Dutch society to sustain systemic racism in the Netherlands.  

Since the Board became operational, Facebook has worked to design, build and test the technical functionality to enable people to appeal to remove content posted by a third-party, whilst ensuring their privacy is protected. Starting today with an expanding roll out over the coming weeks, after an individual has exhausted Facebook’s appeals process, they will receive an Oversight Board Reference ID and can formally appeal for independent review.  

The content eligible for review includes posts, status updates, photos, videos, comments, and shares.  As content will be live on Facebook and Instagram, many people may report the same piece of content. In these cases, multiple user appeals will be gathered into a single case file for the Board, providing greater context of the impact of the content. As with appeals on content that users want restored to Facebook, users may appeal to the Oversight Board once they have exhausted the appeals process with the company. 

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