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Netanyahu called Mark Zuckerberg to voice concerns over Facebook suspension

Ian Wagreich/Aspen Ideas Festival.

Ahead of Facebook’s expected rollout of a new content oversight board, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday to complain that the social media platform took action against his supporters in the most recent election, according to a Haaretz report.

One of the targets: Days before the election, Facebook imposed a 24-hour suspension on a chat bot operated by Netanyahu’s official page after it violated the social network’s hate speech rules. The page had sent a message saying that Israel’s Arab politicians “want to destroy us all — women, children and men — and enable a nuclear Iran that would wipe us out.” Netanyahu blamed the chat message on a staffer. On September 17, Facebook again briefly suspended the chatbot for publishing polling information, which was a violation of Israeli election law.

Placed on hold: “Zuckerberg didn’t comment on the specific claims Netanyahu raised, but did promise to be alert to the issue,” according to the report. A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday, “We constantly speak to leaders all around the world and Mark reiterated that we are an open platform for all ideas.” 

Tackling the problem: Facebook is expected to roll out a newly created independent oversight board that will govern appeals from Facebook users and has the power to overrule the company’s content-moderation decisions on controversial posts. The initiative, which will cost the company over $100 million, is expected to challenge existing Facebook policy, which permits users — including lawmakers and political groups — to run misleading or false paid ads.

Details: Last month, Facebook released a set of bylaws outlining how the board, which will ultimately be comprised of 40 members, will operate. The panel will govern appeals from Facebook users and be given the power overrule the company’s content moderation decisions on controversial posts. The rollout of the board’s first 20 members is expected next month.

Background: According to Wired’s Steven Levy, Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman pitched the idea in an email to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg after the 2016 election. After reading the detailed proposal, Zuckerberg invited Feldman to meet and ultimately hired him as a consultant to kick off the project.

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