Over the last several years, companies seeking to understand how to appropriately moderate content have grappled with a range of complex social and political issues. In November 2018, in a public note by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook announced its intention of creating a mechanism for external review and input on decisions about what violates Facebook Community standards by building an “independent body, whose decisions would be transparent and binding”.
To better understand the range of oversight models that exist globally, we reviewed the existing research from a range of legal and academic sources on different classes of oversight models. We categorized these systems and divided them into general “families” of oversight design, which are: investigative institutions; supervisory institutions; arbitral adjudication processes, administrative adjudication bodies, national judicial systems, including both European continental-style appellate courts and American appeals courts, and international judicial systems. We analyzed each of these families along the dimensions of autonomy of process, validity and salience of information considered, procedural fairness, transparency, and executability of outcome. Comparing these different families yields three high level findings: First, that despite their differences, these families operate on a similar framework where design and execution decisions are key inputs into a process which yields two key outputs: fair and accurate decisions that are operationally feasible. Such a model then can yield legitimacy when combined with the additional elements of transparency and timely execution of outputs (i.e. the oversight body’s recommendation or advice). Second, within this framework, institutions must make trade-offs in key process dimensions such as autonomy of the board with validity or salience of information with procedural fairness. These trade-offs highlight that despite a common goal, these different families have different priorities and ultimately serve different functions. Third, there is no ‘silver bullet’ for institutional design that will address all issues for all constituencies in all conditions. In the context of a governance for social media – a largely new and rapidly evolving space – it is worth considering the underlying priorities and values of external oversight in assessing and ultimately resolving trade-offs in these process dimensions.
Radha Iyengar Plumb is the head of product policy research at Facebook. Previously, she worked as a senior economist at the RAND Corporation and served in senior staff positions at the White House National Security Council, Department of Defense, and Department of Energy. At the outset of her career, she was an assistant professor at the London School of Economics and a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Scholar at Harvard. She received her Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University. Her research has covered empirical evaluations of policies and programs aimed at reducing violence including criminal violence, sexual assault, terrorist behavior, and sexual and intimate partner violence.
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