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Facebook to tweak content policy for politicians after Oversight Board says same rules apply to everyone

Last month, the independent Oversight Board upheld Facebook's decision on January 7 to suspend then US President Donald Trump from its main platform and Instagram.

twitter-logoIndia Today Tech | June 4, 2021 | Updated 19:33 IST
(Picture: Reuters)

Highlights

  • Facebook could end its policy which treats politicians and elected officials differently and shields them from content moderation.
  • The Oversight Board also did not agree with Facebook’s decision of indefinite suspension of Trump’s account.
  • Facebook had rolled out a policy that treats speech from politicians as newsworthy content.

Facebook could end its policy which treats politicians and elected officials differently and shields them from content moderation. The Oversight Board, which is an independent body funded by Facebook for content moderation decisions, recommended that the social media giant should treat politicians as regular individuals and that the same rules should apply to everyone.

Last month, the independent Oversight Board upheld Facebook's decision on January 7 to suspend then US President Donald Trump from its main platform and Instagram. While the Board concluded that Trump should have been suspended from Facebook and Instagram, it also found that Facebook failed to impose a proper penalty.

"This arbitrary penalty gave Facebook total discretion over whether to lift or maintain the suspension, with no criteria that can be scrutinised by users or external observers," the Board observed.

The Oversight Board also did not agree with Facebook's decision of indefinite suspension of Trump's account followed by the Capitol riots in January. It noted that by doing so Facebook was working outside of its own rules and policies.

"The Board rejects Facebook's request for it to endorse indefinite suspension, which gives the company total discretion over when to lift or impose and isn't supported by their content policies," the board had noted. "Anyone concerned about the power of Facebook should be concerned with the company making decisions outside of its own rules."

Facebook has maintained a list of political accounts that are not subject to the same fact-checking or content moderation processes that apply to other users, The Verge reported. Facebook in 2019 had noted that it would treat "speech from politicians as newsworthy content that should, as a general rule, be seen and heard." Facebook had further noted that it would only remove content from politicians if it leads to physical harm or discourage voting.

Reports note that under the special privileges that politicians were given by Facebook, it could cite newsworthiness to leave up a post that would otherwise be taken down. However, Facebook would disclose when it could do so.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been criticised in the past for not censoring hate speech on the platform. Former US President Trump shortly after the murder of George Floyd, had posted, "When the looting starts, the shooting starts," and had also praised the Capitol rioters that led to casualties. Facebook also received criticism in India for not taking down violent comments from the ruling party. The Oversight Board had recommended Facebook to "either suspend the account for a definitive period or delete the account" if a head of state or high government official repeatedly posts messages that pose a risk of harm.

(with inputs from IANS)


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