Facebook#39;s Oversight Board takes up new case from India

Representative Image

Representative Image

Facebook’s Oversight Board has taken up a new case related to a user’s post that was shared from a Punjabi-language online platform and contained insinuations against Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While the post was initially taken down for violating Facebook’s community guidelines, the social media company later restored the content.

The Oversight Board is an independent body set up by Facebook last year to look into hate speech and other undesirable content on the platform. Previously, the Oversight Board had undertaken five cases, including one from India wherein a user had called for violence against French President Emmanuel Macron over a cartoon of Prophet. In that particular case, the Board has overturned Facebook’s decision to remove the content.

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The latest case involves a post that was shared by a user in November last year. The post included a 17-minute video with captions making negative comments on RSS, BJP and Modi. The post was viewed less than 500 times and taken down after a single report for violating Facebook’s Community Standard on Dangerous Individuals and Organisations.

After the user submitted an appeal to the Board, Facebook identified the removal of this post as an enforcement error and restored the content. The user alleged that the comment repeated the video’s substance and reflected its tone. The user questioned why the video still remained on the platform if there was an issue with the content. The user also complained about the social media giant restricting their ability to post, and suggested that accounts be restricted only when users engage in threatening, criminal or misleading activities. The Oversight Board will now review the matter. The body also invites the public to comment on the cases that have been taken up.

Facebook has, in the past, faced criticism in many parts of the world over various issues, including its handling of content and data breaches. It set up the independent body for content moderation in a transparent manner. The Board’s decisions are binding on Facebook and Instagram (which is owned by Facebook). Each of the cases are assigned to a five-member panel, including at least one member from the region implicated in the content.

The Board expects to decide on each case, and for Facebook to have acted on this decision, within 90 days. Once the Board reaches a decision on these cases, Facebook will be required to implement the decisions as well as publicly respond to any additional policy recommendations that it makes.

In May last year, the Board announced the names of 20 members, including Sudhir Krishnaswamy, Vice Chancellor of the National Law School of India University. In the previous case pertaining to India, Facebook had referred a case wherein a user had called for violence against French President Emmanuel Macron over a cartoon of Prophet. The Board overturned the decision by the social network to remove the post.

“While the company considered that the post contained a veiled threat, a majority of the Board believed it should be restored…A majority of the Board found that restoring the content would comply with Facebook’s Community Standards, its values, and international human rights standards,” Oversight Board statement on the website said on Friday. This decision should only be implemented pending user notification and consent, it added.

The Board also recommended that Facebook provide users with additional information regarding the scope and enforcement of restrictions on veiled threats. This, it said, would help users understand what content is allowed in this area.