Facebook is turning to its ‘Supreme Court’ to decide whether to end restrictions on Covid disinformation. They do so more than two years after the company first began taking special measures against reports containing falsehoods about the disease.
The social network is considering changing the way it deals with such misinformation, for example, by classifying it as false or downgrading it in an algorithmic rank, rather than simply removing it from the site. According to the head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, she wants to make the change now. “Now many, but not all, countries around the world are trying to return to a more normal life.”
But to avoid making the wrong decision to “resolve the inherent tensions between freedom of expression and security,” Facebook will turn to its supervisory board to decide what its future moderation policy should be.
“We are seeking an opinion from the Supervisory Board on whether Meta’s current measures to address misinformation about Covid-19 remain appropriate,” Clegg said.
By seeking advice, Facebook is under no obligation to implement the Board’s ruling. This leaves some wondering if the site isn’t just covering up a decision that is likely to be unpopular with much of the community, no matter what Facebook chooses.
“Meta remains committed to fighting misinformation about COVID-19 and providing people with reliable information,” Clegg said in a statement. “As the pandemic progresses, it is time for us to seek input from the Supervisory Board on our measures to address misinformation about Covid-19.”
How independent is the council?
The oversight board is funded by Facebook and the first four members, all with the title of co-chair, were chosen by the social network. Presidents and Facebook elected the first twenty-member council. The intent is for the Board of Trustees to grow into a 40-member board over time, after which Facebook says it will no longer be involved in member selection. However, more than two years later, the council is still made up of only 23 people.
Despite the close ties, the board has already had some clashes with Facebook. In 2021, the board sued the social network to force them to make a decision and bear the political consequences. That was then about whether Donald Trump would be permanently banned from the site.
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