Facebook announces inaugural oversight board members

Review Board

Appointees include Emi Palmor, former director general of the Israeli Justice Ministry

Ian Wagreich/Aspen Ideas Festival

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook announced on Wednesday the inaugural members of its new oversight board, an assemblage of experts including lawyers and academics that will make binding decisions about whether to remove objectionable content from the site. Four co-chairs selected the initial 20 members, who in turn will appoint 20 more.

Israeli representation: The board members include Emi Palmor, an adjunct lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. Previously, she served as the director general of the Israeli Justice Ministry. Other appointees include Alan Rusbridger, principal of Oxford’s Lady Margaret Hall and former editor of The Guardian; Tawakkol Karman, a Nobel Peace Prize winner; and Michael McConnell, a professor at Stanford Law School.

Weighing in: Palmor told JI, “As a public servant for 24 years, I dedicated myself to promoting fair access and to emphasizing the importance of the average citizen. I joined the Facebook Global Oversight Board because I see it as a tremendous challenge, and an opportunity to apply the professional principles that have guided me over the years to benefit citizens around the world. I have a reputation as someone who is ready to tackle explosive issues, and right now I am committed to act so that Facebook takes responsibility for content issues while also improving the transparency and fairness of its operations in this field.”

Background: The idea for the board initially came from Harvard law professor and Bloomberg opinion columnist Noah Feldman, according to Steven Levy of Wired . After the 2016 election, Feldman floated the idea to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, who passed it on to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook’s promise: “For our part, Facebook will implement the board’s decisions unless doing so could violate the law, and will respond constructively and in good faith to policy guidance put forth by the board,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications, said in a statement announcing the board. “The board won’t be able to hear every case we or the public might want it to hear, but we look forward to working with the board to ensure that its scope grows over time.”

Critique: Still, some observers are incredulous that Facebook will grant the board autonomy. Sheera Frenkel, a cybersecurity reporter for The New York Times, posited that the social media giant could have elected members who are critical of Facebook, including Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at University of North Carolina’s School of Information and Library Science, and David Kaye, a professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law.

“These are people who have spent years holding FB to account,” she wrote. “Seeing their names on a board would go a long way towards gaining public trust in the board.”

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