The Meta Oversight Board’s First Term

Paper by Evelyn Douek: “The Meta Oversight Board was established to oversee one of the most expansive systems of speech regulation in history and to exercise independent review over “some of the most difficult and significant
content decisions” Meta makes. As a voluntary exercise in selfregulation, the Board exercises power over Meta only insofar and for as long as Meta permits it to. And yet, in its inaugural members’ first threeyear term, the Board has in many ways defied its skeptics. The Board has established itself as a regular part of conversations about content moderation governance, receiving significant academic and media attention. It has also instantiated meaningful reforms of Meta’s content moderation systems, and shed light on otherwise completely opaque decisionmaking processes within one of the world’s most powerful
speech regulators. But the Board has also consistently shied away from answering the hardest and most controversial questions that come before it—that is, the very questions it was set up to solve. Although the Board purported to evaluate Meta’s rules under international human rights law, it has almost entirely failed to engage with the necessary the normative question of how international law principles created to constrain governmental power over expression should apply to private content moderation systems. This Essay argues that the Board’s institutional incentives and desire for influence have made it prioritize consensus and simplicity over engagement with the fundamental normative questions that the quest for principled content moderation decisionmaking raises. The result is a tremendous missed opportunity that holds important lessons for the design of future content moderation oversight bodies…(More)”