By Gokul Bhagabati
New Delhi, May 10 (IANS) Even as the newly-constituted Facebook Oversight Board works out the details about its decision-making procedures, Sudhir Krishnaswamy, who is the only member in the board from India, says the independent body may itself take up some cases related to contentious content and decide whether they should stay on Facebook and Instagram or not.
The independent Oversight Board, which announced its formation with initial 20 members on May 6 hopes to offer a new model of content moderation for Facebook and Instagram.
Krishnaswamy who is Vice Chancellor of the National Law School of India University in Bengaluru is the only member in the board from the country.
Currently content moderation is done within the company. Besides using technology to bar harmful content from appearing on the sites, they also have a human moderation system.
The Oversight Board will give users a chance to appeal against any wrongful removal of their content. The decisions of the board will be binding on Facebook and Instagram.
“There are three possible channels through which cases can come to the Oversight Board. The Facebook content moderation team may itself refer a case to the board or a user may bring up a case and potentially even the Oversight Board itself might feel that a particular case should come to it,” Krishnaswamy told IANS in an interview.
“The Facebook referral is already recognised and so is the user referral. The third channel is not yet open. So at any event, the board will write up a document making very clear how cases will come up,” he said.
But the board will not take up a large number of cases. It will only decide on difficult and challenging cases. Most of these cases are likely to revolve around five-six categories of issues, including hate speech and nudity, he added.
Saying that the board will function in a transparent manner, Krishnaswamy noted that the board will work on decisions by as soon as September.
“One of the first things we will have to do is to put together these protocols of decision making as well as how they will be made public,” he added.
“In the next two to three months, these will be progressively sorted out and made public and may be by September we will start doing the work with respect to cases,” Krishnaswamy emphasised.
It is likely that a panel of 4-5 members will make the decisions which will then be confirmed by the board. But it is not yet clear whether decisions will be made on the basis of what the majority in the panel thinks about it.
The board has also not sorted out yet whether a particular order related to content removal or restoration will be applicable for users of the platforms across the world or it will have particular geographical jurisdiction.
“My thought is that the board must have the relative freedom to craft a remedy that might be jurisdictional, or regional, or global. Some remedies might be necessary in a particular geography. Some remedies might be general and applicable across the world,” Krishnaswamy said.
The board, Krishnaswamy said, will also review whether Facebook and Instagram will implement its decisions.
“Both Facebook and Instagram as well as their CEO have given a clear unequivocal undertaking that the decisions of the board will be implemented. We are confident that our decisions will be implemented,” he said.
However, Krishnaswamy, who is also Co-Founder of the Center for Law and Policy Research which works to advance constitutional values for everyone, including the LGBTQ+ and transgender persons in India, added that whether in the physical world or the Internet universe there will always be some “compliance problem”.
“We will also publish an annual report where we will consolidate the decision that we have taken, offer some recommendations and also review compliance,” he said, adding that the success of the oversight board might serve as a model for content moderation for Internet platforms across the world, including India.
Over time, the board which has ensured financial independence with the establishment of a $130 million trust fund that is independent of Facebook, expects to have around 40 members.
(Gokul Bhagabati can be contacted at [email protected])