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New Facebook oversight panel orders banned posts restored; no decision on Trump

Committee overturns rulings in 4 out of 5 cases, including on nudity and claims COVID cure exists

Employees of the Competence Call Center (CCC) work for the Facebook Community Operations Team in Essen, Germany, November 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Employees of the Competence Call Center (CCC) work for the Facebook Community Operations Team in Essen, Germany, November 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

WASHINGTON — Facebook’s new oversight board said Thursday 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 former US president 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 said it was 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 the “risk of imminent … physical harm.” But the review board said 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 said Thursday these five photos should be allowed in light of Facebook’s own policy exception for breast cancer awareness.

The board said 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 said 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.

The launch of the panel came late last year amid rising concerns about misinformation and manipulation around the US presidential election.

The board was created at the urging of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with the authority to overrule him and other top executives.

Facebook has agreed to be bound by decisions on appeals, but rulings will only apply to cases at issue and will not set precedents.

Members of the oversight board come from various countries and include jurists, human rights activists, journalists, a Nobel peace laureate and a former Danish prime minister.

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