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Facebook Pledges $130 Million to Fund Its Content Oversight Board

Facebook announced an initial commitment of $130 million to launch its new Oversight Board, which is designed as a way for users to appeal the social giant’s content decisions, but the entity is behind schedule with initial board members to be announced in 2020.

The Oversight Board — which has been dubbed Facebook’s “Supreme Court” — will have the ability to make binding decisions independently of CEO Mark Zuckerberg or anyone else at Facebook. It’s set to launch in the first half of 2020, comprised of staff and board members independent of the company.

The Oversight Board will provide a way for users to appeal decisions about Facebook’s enforcement of community standards, which prohibit activity and content like violence and criminal behavior, pornography and other objectionable content and behavior, as well as ads on the service.

Originally, Facebook had planned to announce co-chairs and initial members of the Oversight Board this year, but that has been delayed to 2020 as the company has been vetting some 1,000 candidates for up to 40 spots on the board.

According to Facebook, the initial funding will cover operational costs such as staff, office space and travel expenses, and should allow the board to operate for about six years — at least its first two full terms. The company intends to fund the Oversight Board in the future.

While Facebook has taken pains to ensure the Oversight Board will operate without interference from the company itself, critics have questioned how effective or truly independent it will be in practice. The $130 million earmarked for the Oversight Board’s operations represents around 2% of Facebook’s net profit for the third quarter of 2019 alone.

Facebook is setting up the so-called Supreme Court in an effort to show it’s a good corporate citizen — to build user trust and ultimately to try forestall heavy-handed government action against it. Zuckerberg has called for new laws spelling out how speech on internet platforms should be regulated, while he’s also repeatedly insisted that breaking up Facebook would not fix problems with social media.

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