Facebook Oversight Board Tells Zuckerberg He’s the Decider on Trump
When Mr. Zuckerberg first pitched the concept of a “Facebook Supreme Courtroom” a number of years in the past, he promoted it as a approach to make the firm’s governance extra democratic, by forming an unbiased physique of subject material specialists and giving them the energy to listen to appeals from customers.
“I feel in any type of good-functioning democratic system, there must be a approach to attraction,” Mr. Zuckerberg informed Ezra Klein in a 2018 Vox podcast.
The oversight board additionally served one other function. For years, Mr. Zuckerberg had been known as in as Facebook’s coverage decide of final resort. (In 2018, for instance, he bought personally concerned in the choice to bar Alex Jones, the Infowars conspiracy theorist.) However high-profile moderation choices had been typically unpopular, and the blowback was typically fierce. If it labored, the oversight board would take duty for making the platform’s most contentious content material choices, whereas shielding Mr. Zuckerberg and his coverage workforce from criticism.
It’s onerous to think about a dispute Mr. Zuckerberg can be extra wanting to keep away from than the one about Mr. Trump. The previous president rode Facebook to the White Home in 2016, then tormented the firm by repeatedly skirting its guidelines and daring executives to punish him for it. After they lastly did, Republicans raged at Mr. Zuckerberg and his lieutenants, accusing them of politically motivated censorship.
Facebook confronted loads of strain in the different path, too — each from Democrats and civil rights teams and from staff, lots of whom noticed Mr. Trump’s presence on Facebook as basically incompatible with their purpose of decreasing dangerous misinformation and hate speech. It doesn’t matter what Mr. Zuckerberg and his workforce determined, they had been positive to inflame the on-line speech wars and make extra enemies.
Earlier than the choice on Wednesday, Mr. Zuckerberg and different Facebook executives did all the things they might to persuade a skeptical public that the oversight board would have actual enamel. They funded the group by a legally unbiased belief, stuffed it with hyper-credentialed specialists and pledged to abide by its rulings.
However for all its claims of legitimacy, the oversight board has at all times had a Potemkin high quality to it. Its leaders had been chosen by Facebook, and its members are (handsomely) paid out of the firm’s pockets. Its mandate is proscribed, and none of its rulings are binding, in any significant sense of that phrase. If Mr. Zuckerberg determined tomorrow to disregard the board’s recommendation and reinstate Mr. Trump’s accounts, nothing — no act of Congress, no judicial writ, no indignant letter from Facebook shareholders — may cease him.
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