Facebook appoints British human rights expert to new oversight board

29 January 2020, 12:14

The Facebook logo on a smartphone
Facebook illegal comments. Picture: PA

Thomas Hughes will lead the new independent board, which will analyse content the social network has decided to take down.

Facebook has appointed British human rights expert Thomas Hughes as the director of its new oversight board.

The independent board, announced last year, will have the power to overrule the social network’s decisions on content moderation.

Mr Hughes is a former executive director for Article 19, a British non-governmental organisation which focuses on freedom of expression and digital rights.

The board will review content which Facebook has taken down from its services – which also include Instagram.

Individuals who disagree with Facebook’s decision to remove content can appeal to the board, and Facebook itself will be able to directly refer significant and difficult cases.

Speaking on a conference call with reporters about the announcement, Mr Hughes said he felt his new role aligned with his previous work.

“I’ve worked on the defence and promotion of freedom of expression and other human rights for the past two decades, ranging from protecting journalists in some of the most dangerous countries in the world through to advocating at the United Nations for setting progressive standards including around digital
rights-related issues,” he said.

“So, for me, thus far, I see a continuation in taking up the role of director because the oversight board has been created to ensure the rights of people are respected and that there is transparency and accountability in the application of the community standards.”

Facebook is yet to announce the other board member who will sit with Mr Hughes.

The social network also published a set of proposed bylaws for the board, which will need to be approved by the board.

They propose that the board will manage its own membership and publish all of its decisions on its website, and Facebook will implement the board’s binding content decisions within seven days, except in cases where it could violate the law.

The social network will fund the board and its staff for at least six years.

Critics have suggested that the oversight board is Facebook’s attempted to stall greater regulation being imposed on the company.

By Press Association

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