“Facebook seeks to escape its responsibilities”

Facebook’s supervisory board, which was due to look into Trump’s ban, has delivered its verdict. She does not make a final decision, but asks for a reconsideration. The sentence is not stingy in critics, but some believe that this body has shown its uselessness.

Was Facebook hoping to turn the page on Donald Trump’s banishment and use the verdict of his supervisory board as a totem of immunity from the criticism of which he is the subject? If so, it’s a failure. Its “supreme court” has certainly delivered his sentence, May 5, but it embellished it with strong criticism against the social network. And above all, the file is not closed.

In its decision, the supervisory board, whose opinions are binding on Facebook, judges that the American company was justified in sanctioning the account of the former president of the United States, then in power, ” given the seriousness of the violations and the continued risk of violence “. At least, it was justified to suspend his account on January 6, and extend the sentence on January 7.

An exclusion, yes. But permanent?

But was a permanent exclusion, without a clear end date, justified? It is less certain, in the eyes of the members of the council responsible for dissecting the file. They consider that this decision did not appear justified in view of the conditions in which Facebook placed itself to make a decision. Therefore, a review by Facebook of the Trump case is required within six months.

In its analysis, the council finds that Facebook has itself started to violate its own operating rules by imposing an indefinite suspension, weakening the legality of its decision. ” This sanction is not described in Facebook’s content policies. It is not associated with any specific criteria and leaves Facebook free to decide whether to impose or lift it. », He is observed.

Facebook supervisory board
Some members of the Facebook supervisory board. // Source: Facebook

This sequence gave rise to a deluge of reactions, favorable or hostile. Some have wondered about the power that the giants of the net have over political discourse, with the power to cut the whistle to a particular speaker. Others felt that Donald Trump should not be given preferential treatment and observed that Facebook was a private company, by a public service.

The completely atypical nature of the affair is not avoided. The council is aware that the sanction taken by Facebook fell on a leader then still in office, that it comes from the largest social network in the world (and which, by force of circumstances, has become an almost obligated by Internet users), that it took place in the middle of an election, all against a background of disinformation.

However, in the opinion of the council, policies should not necessarily benefit from separate protection: “ It is not always useful to make a clear distinction between political leaders and other influential users “. In addition, “lInterest in the topicality of what a public figure is saying should never take priority over urgent action to prevent damage. “

“Facebook cannot invent the rules as they go”

The social network can moderate Trump’s account or impose a time-limited suspension, if the circumstances warrant. He can also do nothing. But whatever option is chosen, the decision must ” reflect its rules, the seriousness of the offense and the prospect of future harm “. In other words, Facebook can’t take whatever rule it wants out of its hat, depending on the circumstances.

This reproach appears in a Twitter thread summarizing its verdict: ” Facebook can’t make up the rules as they go, and anyone who worries about its power should be worried about the possibility. Having clear rules that apply to all users and to Facebook is essential to ensure that the business treats users fairly. ».

“Facebook seeks to escape its responsibilities”

Facebook had cited its rules on dangerous individuals and organisms to justify his moderation of Donald Trump, targeting two posts that have been withdrawn. Subsequently, an emergency was declared during the assault on Capitol Hill by Trump supporters. This then gave rise to the ban on Trump, who kept rejecting the results of the polls, for 24 hours, then indefinitely.

But the site rules do not provide for this case. Above all, the supervisory board scents a maneuver by the American company to give it the hot potato – it is indeed not Donald Trump who seized the “supreme court”, but Facebook, which seeks to give a more legal basis to its decision. A maneuver that the council denounces in its remarks of May 5.

« By applying a vague and unstandardized sanction and then sending this matter back to the board for resolution, Facebook is seeking to evade its responsibilities. The board rejects Facebook’s request and insists it apply and justify a defined sanction. ”No question for him to do the work that Facebook did not do, by a kind of definition and argument a posteriori of an indefinite exclusion.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump // Source : NASA/Bill Ingalls

This curious way of doing been relieved by observers, such as the law teacher Michael Veale. Shifting the debate, he notes that “ instead we should focus on the fact that this body cannot develop and define binding policies that Facebook must follow, and that this decision highlights its lack of power. », Despite its independence from the social network.

Other speakers, immersing themselves in a more in-depth analysis of the board’s decision, shed light on Facebook’s relative involvement. It was noted that the site refused to answer nearly 20% of the council’s questions, including those on Trump’s visibility in the news feed, on possible political pressure or the possibility of continuing to target his supporters. through advertising.

Therefore, it is the very usefulness of this supervisory board that arises in the background, if it can neither establish binding rules nor obtain answers to all its questions. ” All this is only classic private governance, structurally locked, but that Facebook wants, out of pure public relation, to pass off as something more “, Tackles Michael Veale in another message.

This weakness is also reflected in the words of the Supervisory Board. The body does not demand, but asks to ensure a readable and rules-based moderation policy is applied, or calls on Facebook to be more transparent about the operation of its news policy. If the supervisory board has greater powers, some will say that it has not demonstrated this.

L’ONG The Real Facebook Oversight Board is even sharper: “cit shows the ineffectiveness of the board, its lack of independence vis-à-vis Facebook and the narrowness of its field of action “. She estimates in a press release that the experience of this board supposed to be independent ” has failed “, is ” totally ineffective “And actually returns” any crucial decision to Facebook ».

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Source: Numerama by www.numerama.com.

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