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Meta created a ‘Supreme Court’ for content. Then it threatened its funds.

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses the challenges faced by Meta's Oversight Board, an independent body tasked with reviewing content moderation decisions on Meta's platforms. It explores the board's efforts to find new sources of funding and revenue, as well as its potential role in helping tech companies comply with the European Union's Digital Services Act.

🙋 Q&A

[01] The Oversight Board's Funding and Independence

1. What were the funding challenges faced by the Oversight Board?

  • Meta, the Oversight Board's sole funder, had privately threatened to pull back support, pushing the board to cut costs or seek new sources of revenue.
  • The Oversight Board had tried for years to find new clients, approaching YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest and other tech companies, but with little success.
  • Many cited Meta's blemished reputation as a reason for the lack of interest from other tech companies.

2. How did the Oversight Board's dependence on Meta's funding make it vulnerable?

  • The Oversight Board's leaders understood that its dependence on Meta's funding made it vulnerable.
  • When Meta's financial situation shifted in late 2022 due to the collapse of digital advertising, the company signaled to the Oversight Board that it should streamline costs, implying that the company might not keep funding at its current level.

3. What steps did the Oversight Board take to address its funding challenges?

  • The Oversight Board's administration was working on a second act: helping companies like Meta comply with the European Union's Digital Services Act (DSA).
  • The board could evaluate the dangers of online platforms or create settlement bodies to allow users to dispute company decisions, which could provide a new source of funding.
  • The DSA made the board's services more appealing to other tech companies, and the Oversight Board administrators touted the group's experience in making impartial decisions about contentious content moderation challenges.

[02] The Oversight Board's Evolving Role

1. How did the Oversight Board's role and focus change over time?

  • In the board's early days, it was seen as a new model for social media governance, with the ability to overrule even Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg on content moderation decisions.
  • However, industry shifts have thrust the Oversight Board into limbo, as Meta has weakened or cut many of the systems and staffers who once guarded the platform against potential harms.
  • Some watchdogs criticize the board as a slow-moving organization with a hefty price tag, and question its relevance to the company, regulators, and the general public.

2. What is the Oversight Board's new focus on the Digital Services Act (DSA)?

  • The Oversight Board is offering itself up to help tech companies comply with the DSA, a sweeping European law that requires companies to supply an independent group of experts to handle user appeals on content moderation decisions.
  • The board has funded a separate center to handle an influx of European user appeals, with former Oversight Board administration director Thomas Hughes leading the new organization.
  • Some board members worry that this focus on minor content moderation cases could jeopardize the group's original mission to hold Meta accountable.

3. How is the Oversight Board trying to bolster its influence and relevance?

  • The Oversight Board is appointing new leaders with a mandate to take on a bigger, more productive caseload with less money from Meta.
  • The board is trying to prove its worth to Meta, regulators, and the general public, as it works through the thorny questions that lie ahead.
Shared by Daniel Chen ·
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