The independent panel will make “final and binding decisions on whether specific content should be allowed or removed” from Facebook and Instagram.
Announcing the news, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications, said: “With our size comes a great deal of responsibility and while we have always taken advice from experts on how to best keep our platforms safe, until now, we have made the final decisions about what should be allowed on our platforms and what should be removed.
“These decisions often are not easy to make – most judgments do not have obvious, or uncontroversial, outcomes and yet many of them have significant implications for free expression.
“That’s why we have created and empowered a new group to exercise independent judgment over some of the most difficult and significant content decisions.”
The current membership stands at 20 members, with the number rising to 40 “over time”. The board has four co-chairs, with countries represented by the panel including the United States, Isreal, India, Kenya and Yemen.
The board has one member from the United Kingdom, with former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger joining the group.
Commenting on his decision to become part of the board, the journalist said Facebook is “an entity that defies description”.
“It is a friend of the otherwise voiceless — but also an enabler of darkness. It brings harmony to some, discord to many. It promotes order and amplifies anarchy.
“It employs many brilliant engineers but has — too slowly — recognized that the multiple challenges it faces involve the realms of philosophy, ethics, journalism, religion, geography, and human rights. And it makes a whole lot of money, and a whole lot of enemies, while doing this.
“To address this, it needs independent, external oversight,” he writes.
The Oversight Board will be hearing cases later this year, when Facebook users will be able to appeal to them in instances where the site has removed their content. The board will later be able to review requests from individuals who want content removed.
On the board’s website, they say that they will be unable to issue decisions “on the many thousands of appeals we expect to receive”, but added that they will prioritise submissions “that potentially impact many users, are of critical importance to public discourse, or raise questions about Facebook’s policies”.
According to its by-laws, the group will not be able to review content shared on Marketplace, fundraisers, Facebook dating, messages or spam, unless reassessed by Facebook in the future.
The same rule applies to content on its WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram Direct, and Oculus services.
More information about Facebook’s Oversight Board can be found on its official website.
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