Facebook says it will create independent body to monitor offensive content

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Thursday that the social media giant will hire an independent body to monitor users’ online content, just one day after a shocking report from The New York Times detailed alleged tactics the company used to delay, deflect and deny scrutiny over Russian disinformation and the increasing spread of hate speech.

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“As I've thought about these content issues, I've increasingly come to believe that Facebook should not make so many important decisions about free expression and safety on our own,” he said.

Facebook officials denied numerous allegations made in the Times piece, which claimed the company’s leadership was not fast enough to address the growing menace of fake news, all while it neglected to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In a lengthy blog post published on Thursday, Zuckerberg outlined the company’s current governance system, but said moving forward it will establish an independent body to increase oversight and transparency. In the next year, Zuckerberg said, users will be able to appeal content decisions to an independent body, “whose decisions would be transparent and binding.”

Facebook does not yet know how members of the body will be selected, nor how their independence from the company will be ensured.

“How do people petition this body? How does the body pick which cases to hear from potentially millions of requests?” he said. “As part of this consultation period, we will begin piloting these ideas in different regions of the world in the first half of 2019, with the aim of establishing this independent body by the end of the year.”

The post follows Facebook’s decision on Wednesday to sever ties with Definers Public Affairs, a Washington-based public relations firm that, according to the Times, sought to discredit the social network’s critics, often by linking them to liberal activist George Soros.

Facebook acknowledged that Definers did “encourage members of the press to look into the funding of Freedom from Facebook," an umbrella activist group that has called for the tech firm to be broken up on antitrust grounds, according to Fox News. However, the company said it wanted to prove that Freedom from Facebook was funded by Soros, not a grassroots campaign.

Soros is a frequent target of anti-Semitic theories and, although he’s criticized Facebook, also holds shares of the company.