Mark Zuckerberg Can Be Overruled by Facebook’s New Oversight Board on Content Decisions

Mark Zuckerberg Facebook
Alberto Est vez/Epa/REX/Shutters

Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and CEO of Facebook, can’t be ousted by investors — he owns a controlling interest in the company’s voting shares.

But according to the social giant, the new Oversight Board — colloquially called Facebook’s “Supreme Court” — that it is setting up to adjudicate appeals about whether to leave up or take down specific content will have the ability to make those decisions independently of Zuckerberg or anyone else at Facebook.

Facebook says it enforces community standards prohibiting things like violence and criminal behavior, pornography, and other objectionable content and behavior. With the new Oversight Board, comprised of people independent of the company, users will be able to appeal those decisions.

“The board’s decision will be binding, even if I or anyone at Facebook disagrees with it,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post Tuesday. “The board will use our values to inform its decisions and explain its reasoning openly and in a way that protects people’s privacy.”

Facebook released a charter document outlining more details on the structure of the Oversight Board, which it has been developing over the past year. According to the company, the board will have at least 11 members and up to 40, each serving three-year terms in a part-time capacity. The body will have the ability to make decisions about specific cases but will not be able to change Facebook’s policies (although it can issue policy recommendations for the company to consider).

Facebook said the system for users to initiate appeals to the Oversight Board will launch in the first half of 2020.

“As an independent organization, we hope it gives people confidence that their views will be heard, and that Facebook doesn’t have the ultimate power over their expression,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Just as our Board of Directors keeps Facebook accountable to our shareholders, we believe the Oversight Board can do the same for our community.”

The publication of the Oversight Board charter “brings us another step closer to establishing the board, but there is a lot of work still ahead,” Zuckerberg added. “We expect the board will only hear a small number of cases at first, but over time we hope it will expand its scope and potentially include more companies across the industry as well.”

Facebook said for the initial formation of the board, it will pick a group of co-chairs, who (along with Facebook) will then jointly select candidates for the remainder of the board seats. After the initial Oversight Board is established, a committee of the board will select candidates to serve as board members “based on a review of the candidates’ qualifications and a screen for disqualifications,” the company says in the charter document.