Facebook review board in first action overturns four content-removal rulings

Facebook’s new oversight board says in its first rulings that in four of five cases it had considered, the company was wrong to remove controversial posts from the platform.

These did not include Donald Trump’s indefinite suspension from Facebook and Instagram after the storming of the US Capitol, but the board said last week it agreed to consider that case.

The Oversight Board says it is overturning the platform’s ruling in four of the five cases it looked at and ordering that the disputed content be restored to Facebook.

These four included, for example, a post that asserted that France lacked a health care strategy and included claims that a cure for COVID-19 exists.

This post was initially removed on grounds that it contributed to “risk of imminent … physical harm.” But the review board says Facebook’s rule on misinformation and imminent harm was “inappropriately vague.”

Another case involved nudity. An Instagram user in Brazil had posted pictures of women’s nipples as part of a breast cancer awareness message. It was removed, but the board says these five photos should be allowed in light of Facebook’s own policy exception for breast cancer awareness.

A demonstrator joins others outside Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s home in San Francisco to protest Facebook’s alleged spreading of disinformation, November 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

The board says that since it started accepting cases in October of last year, more than 150,000 cases have been appealed to the panel.

“As we cannot hear every appeal, we are prioritizing cases that have the potential to affect lots of users around the world, are of critical importance to public discourse or raise important questions about Facebook’s policies,” the board says in a statement.

Facebook’s oversight board is tasked with making final decisions on appeals regarding what is removed or allowed to remain on the world’s biggest social network.

It is considering cases involving Nazi propaganda, hate speech, nudity, pandemic misinformation, and dangerous individuals or organizations.

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