Facebook has plans to establish an independent oversight board “analogous to a court,” that will have the power to make decisions on what content should be removed from the platform, the company’s head of global policy, Nick Clegg, said on Monday (24 June).
Speaking to the BBC ahead of a speech in Berlin, Clegg said Facebook would commit to “abide by whatever rulings the board makes” on key content removal disputes.
“At the end of the day, there is something really quite uncomfortable about a private company making all these profoundly ethical adjudications over whether this bit of content stays up, or this piece of content comes down,” he said.
Facebook’s plans come after a period of criticism from EU regulators, particularly in the context of terrorist material being allowed to spread online in the wake of various global attacks.
Following the Christchurch attacks in New Zealand in March, the EU’s Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos came out strongly against Facebook, saying “the damage had already been done” by the time the platform had removed a live-streamed video of the atrocity, taken by the terrorist.
Despite having removed the original video with haste, Facebook revealed that it also took down around 1.5 million videos of footage from the rampage within 24 hours of the attack. “This footage should have never gone online in the first place,” Avramopolous told reporters in March.
Clegg also renewed calls for a tighter regulatory framework to be applied to Facebook’s business model on Monday, echoing Mark Zuckerberg’s suggestion for introducing a legal regime across areas involving harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.
“I don’t think it’s right for private companies to set the rules of the road for something which is as profoundly important as how technology serves society,” Clegg said. Zuckerberg had said in April that governments and regulators should play a “more active role” in updating the rules for the internet.
At the time, Zuckerberg’s move was met with concern by many in Brussels, with British Socialist MEP Claude Moraes saying the intentions were to divert scrutiny from other areas in which Facebook has come under the spotlight.
“Facebook are adopting a strategy which says ‘we know that the European Union, one of the three big regulators in the world, can now adopt anti-trust, monopoly, tax-type regulation. But Facebook doesn’t want to get into that,” Moraes told Euronews.
Moreover, EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová told EURACTIV that “regulation will not solve Facebook’s problems stemming from lax data protection, like the Cambridge Analytica scandal or other, more recent, breaches.”
More broadly, Clegg said on Monday there is “absolutely no evidence” for Russian interference in the UK’s Brexit referendum campaign, dismissing claims that Cambridge Analytica had used user data to influence voting intentions.
“Much though I understand why people want to reduce that eruption in British politics to some kind of plot or conspiracy of some use of new social media through opaque means, I’m afraid the roots to British Euroscepticism go very deep,” Clegg said.
“Candidly, over the last 40 years, they have been much more influenced by traditional media than they have by the new media.”
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]