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Despite Oversight Board recommendations, Facebook is not changing its COVID-19 policies

In total, 17 recommendations were made and Facebook accepted 11 of them.

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Image: KnowTechie

Faced with severe scrutiny over content moderation, Facebook formed an independent Oversight Board. The Oversight Board’s goal is to help the social giant with some of the most challenging questions, such as freedom of expression online.

The board consists of independent experts that help Facebook with content moderation and give recommendations on what to take down and what to keep. 

Recently, the Oversight Board sent 17 recommendations to Facebook. The company shared its response in a new blog post. 11 recommendations were accepted, five are still being discussed, and one was denied. This suggestion was about Facebook’s stance on COVID-19 misinformation. 

According to the Oversight Board, the company should use “less intrusive measures” when dealing with pandemic-related content identified as misinformation. The panel suggests a lighter touch when the potential for physical harm is confirmed, but at the same time when it is not imminent. 

The Oversight Board and Facebook went head to head after the removal of a post claiming that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin were effective COVID treatments. The oversight ruled that the post in question should be restored. Reluctantly, the company restored the post. 

Nick Clegg, a Vice President for Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook, touched on this issue on Facebook’s official blog. He backed the company’s stance regarding its current approach to potential pandemic misinformation. Furthermore, current policies implement the “least intrusive enforcement measures” when imminent harm is identified, according to Clegg. He also didn’t forget to mention that Facebook’s actions are always in line with leading public health authorities such as the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Even though many people are not surprised by Facebook’s response, it offers a rare glimpse into the social network’s relationship with its Oversight Board. On more than a few occasions, people at the company have referred to the Oversight Board as their “Supreme Court.” But even though the Oversight Board’s decisions are meant to be binding, Facebook treats them more as recommendations and appears to be not entirely comfortable with accepting the Oversight Board’s influence.

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