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6 May 2020

Alan Rusbridger, Medium

Commentary: Why I'm joining Facebook's Oversight Board

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Facebook’s operating principle is to move fast and break things. In creating this Oversight Board, the company has proceeded extremely slowly and tiptoed over eggshells. I am told there were more than 2,000 conversations to put together a board that was suitably global, diverse, eclectic, independent, and experienced... 

The global Covid-19 crisis we’re currently living through exemplifies the mortal dangers of a world of information chaos. Societies and communities can’t function unless there is some consensus around facts and truth. And the coronavirus is, in some ways, merely a dress rehearsal for the even greater challenges of climate change.

At the same time, there is a crisis of free expression — with oligarchs, populist leaders, and some corporations trying to delegitimize and repress the voices of those who would challenge them. Finally, there is a crisis of journalism: both the economic model which sustains it, and in the generally low levels of trust much of it enjoys... Facebook sits at the heart of these interlocking crises... it needs independent, external oversight... The balancing of free expression with the need for a better-organized public square is one of the most urgent causes I can imagine.

... Harvard academic, Dipayan Ghosh, believes the Oversight Board’s powers are too narrowly drawn... “We need oversight of the company’s data practices to promote consumer and citizen privacy,” he has written, adding: “oversight of the company’s strategic acquisitions and data governance to protect against anticompetitive practice; and oversight of the company’s algorithmic decision — making to protect against bias.”