Facebook Oversight Board Is Pawn in Social Media Giant’s War on Free Speech

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Facebook Oversight Board Is Pawn in Social Media Giant’s War on Free Speech

By Rolf Hazlehurst

Facebook, which owns Instagram, is aggressively engaged in censorship. So in order to clean up its image, Facebook created an Oversight Board, which the social media giant describes as “independent, empowered, accessible and transparent.”

In theory, the Oversight Board has the power to reverse any decision by Facebook to censor posts by Facebook and Instagram users.

In reality, Facebook has total control over a user’s ability to appeal to the Oversight Board.

If Instagram removes a user’s individual post, the user may appeal Instagram’s decision by filing an appeal to the Oversight Board. The appeal is a two-step process.

First, the user submits a simple “request review” form through a link on the user’s account. If Instagram determines the post was not removed by accident, but rather for some other reason such as a violation of Instagram’s terms of use or community guidelines, Instagram sends a denial of request to review, which contains an identification number and a link that allows the user to proceed to the second step — an appeal to the Oversight Board.

The fatal catch-22 of the appeals process is this: If Instagram deactivates your account, you do not have the ability to send a “request review” to Instagram, Facebook or the Oversight Board. The “independent, empowered, accessible and transparent,” Oversight Board does not even have its own public mailing or e-mail address — Facebook controls all access to the Oversight Board.

In addition to the hamster-wheel-impossible technical appeals process, according to Instagram and Facebook’s rules of appeal, a user cannot appeal to the Oversight Board unless the user has an active account.

In other words, if Instagram or Facebook censors your speech by deactivating your account, you cannot appeal to the Oversight Board. (There is a provision in the Facebook by-laws which allows Facebook to grant exceptions to the no appeal rule, which is presumably how former President Donald Trump gained access to the Oversight Board.)

Because Facebook controls who may appeal to the Oversight Board, it is dishonest for Facebook to claim that the Oversight Board is “independent, empowered, accessible and transparent.” An appeal to the Oversight Board is an illusion, which renders the Oversight Board a pawn in Facebook’s war on free speech.

Censorship of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr..

On Feb. 8, Facebook announced an expanded effort to “keep people informed and limit misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines.”

On Feb. 11, without warning or notice, Facebook deactivated the Instagram account belonging to Children’s Health Defense Chairman Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

In a subsequently issued statement, a spokesperson for Facebook falsely claimed Kennedy’s Instagram was removed “for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines.”

Kennedy adamantly denied he has made “false” or “debunked” claims about the coronavirus or vaccines. In fact, all of his public statements are rigorously fact-checked before publication.

In response to Facebook’s termination of his Instagram account, Kennedy made a diligent effort to appeal to the Facebook Oversight Board, including submitting multiple “request review” forms, emails, telephone calls and letters.

There has been no response from Facebook, Instagram or the Oversight Committee.

On March 30, after repeatedly attempting to appeal to the Oversight Committee, through Facebook’s one-way, dead end appeals process, Kennedy made a direct appeal to the individual members of the Oversight Board. He sent a letter via email to the individual members of the Oversight Committee, which explains in detail how none of the comments or posts which were previously flagged by Instagram are false or debunked.

No member of the Oversight Committee ever responded.

The silence of Facebook, Instagram and the Oversight Board is the deafening sound of the death of free speech.

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