Online content policing loses steam

Big tech platforms are splintering on their efforts to limit undesirable content, Reuters reports.

Major online platforms once competed to display their vigilance against misinformation, abuse, and hate speech. 

Now, the platforms are choosing decidedly different roads on how to police their content.

The Oversight Board that handles appeals of Facebook’s content decisions announced it would speed up some of its processes and take on more cases.

The changes, which promise decisions “within days in urgent cases,” could allow the independent organization to serve as more of a real-time participant in Facebook’s enforcement of its rules.

But the announcement is also another reminder that the company is increasingly willing to outsource critical decisions about its content policy.

After the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica controversy, large social media platforms all sought to show the public and lawmakers that they were cracking down on what critics identified as a deluge of misinformation and toxic posts.

The companies tightened policies and hired legions of moderators in a campaign that continued through the Covid pandemic when platforms were flooded with medical misinformation.

The Oversight Board was created in late 2020 to review Facebook and Instagram’s decisions on taking down or leaving up certain content and make rulings on whether to uphold or overturn the social media company’s actions. Since then, the board has published 35 case decisions. 

The board said it will now begin publishing decisions on some cases on an expedited basis. Rulings could come as quickly as 48 hours after accepting a case, while others could take up to 30 days.

Standard decisions, in which the Oversight Board reviews Meta’s content moderation actions in depth, can take up to 90 days. Unlike standard decisions, expedited cases will be reviewed by a panel of board members instead of the full board and will not consider public comments.

Meta’s platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, increasingly rely on the Oversight Board to resolve or assist with the toughest questions they face — like the recent decision to allow former president Donald Trump back onto Facebook.

Twitter under Elon Musk, meanwhile, has chosen a radically different course. The service recently offered a broad amnesty to accounts previously banned for violating its rules after a survey of Musk’s Twitter followers supported the move.

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