Here are the first 6 cases on which the 'Supreme Court of Facebook' will have to rule

Here are the first 6 cases on which the 'Supreme Court of Facebook' will have to rule
  • The Facebook Oversight Board has chosen the first six cases it will rule on, out of the 20,000 complaints received since October 2020.
  • The board is an independent body that reviews Facebook’s content moderation decisions.
  • It was announced in 2018, and includes 20 members, out of which there is one representative from India.
The Facebook oversight board, sometimes nicknamed the ‘Supreme Court of Facebook’, has a daunting task ahead. Out of the 20,000 complaints it has received, it will rule on six cases involving content removed under Facebook’s hate speech rules, misinformation policies, and nudity ban.

The Facebook Oversight Board also has a representative from India - Sudhir Krishnaswamy.

Announced in 2018, this committee's mission is to oversee the moderation of Facebook, in order to "guarantee freedom of expression through independent judgment." After months of delay, the Supervisory Board and its 20 members seem finally ready to decide on what content to remove, and what to leave online.
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Since October 2020, users of the social network have had the opportunity to appeal to the independent committee if they believe that one of their publications has been unfairly withdrawn by the moderation teams.

According to Facebook, more than 20,000 complaints have already been sent for examination. In choosing the first six cases to be dealt with, the Council prioritized those "which have the potential to affect many people around the world, are of critical importance to public debate or raise major questions about Facebook's rules."

Each case will be studied by a jury made up of five Council members, at least one of whom will come from the region involved in the content, in order to ensure a better understanding of the situation. In total, the study of a case may take up to 90 days.

As a first step, people and organizations outside the Supervisory Board and Facebook will be able to publicly comment on the case, in order to provide useful information and their expertise. Public comments on the first six cases can be sent until Tuesday, December 8, 2020.

The jury will then carry out additional research on the specificities of the region concerned, and request the help of translators if necessary. Once all this information is in hand, the Council will make its final decision.

Facebook is required to implement decisions made by members of the Oversight Committee, as well as to "respond publicly to any policy recommendations made by the board." The decisions of the "supreme court" of Facebook could therefore set a precedent and modify the moderation policy of the social network.

Here are the first 6 cases that Facebook's Supervisory Board will deal with:

6. Case concerning the remarks of the former Malaysian prime minister on violence against the French

Here are the first 6 cases on which the 'Supreme Court of Facebook' will have to rule
Tasnim News Agency / Wikimedia Commons

User-submitted case 2020-001-FB-UA concerns screenshots of tweets by the former Malaysian prime minister, in which he said, among other things, that "Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people in revenge for the massacres of the past". These tweets, since deleted from Twitter and Facebook, followed the terrorist attack that left three people dead in a church in Nice in October 2020.

Following the removal of the screenshots by Facebook, the user who posted them appealed to the council, saying its aim was to spread awareness of the former prime minister's "horrible words". The user had posted the screenshots without adding a caption.

5. Case concerning the use of a photo of a deceased child to denounce the treatment of Uighurs in China
Here are the first 6 cases on which the 'Supreme Court of Facebook' will have to rule
Macau Photo Agency / Unsplash

The 2020-002-FB-UA case concerns the publication of two well-known photos of little Aylan – a Syrian child found dead on a beach in 2015 and whose drowning images made headlines around the world. In the Burmese text that accompanied the photos on Facebook, the user denounced the treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority by the Chinese government, and compared it to the murder of Samuel Paty in France.

Facebook had deleted the post, saying it was breaking its rules on hate speech. The user appealed, saying his post "disagreed with the killer and aimed to emphasize that human lives matter more than religious ideologies."

4. Case concerning a position taken on the armed conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh
Here are the first 6 cases on which the 'Supreme Court of Facebook' will have to rule
Alex Ang / Wikimedia Commons

The fourth case (2020-003-FB-UA) concerns a user's position on the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The user posted photos of churches in Baku (the capital of Azerbaijan), claiming that the city was built by Armenians - mostly Christians - accusing Azerbaijanis - mostly Muslim - of "vandalism" and asking for this “what had become of the churches”.

Facebook removed the post for breaking the rules on hate speech. In his appeal, the user justified himself by explaining that his intention "was to demonstrate the destruction of cultural and religious monuments."

3. Case concerning pictures of nipples as part of an awareness campaign against breast cancer
Here are the first 6 cases on which the 'Supreme Court of Facebook' will have to rule
cottonbro / Pexels

The 2020-004-IG-UA case to be dealt with by Council concerns the social network's rules on nudity. Facebook removed a photo on Instagram - which the company owns - that showed female nipples.

The Brazilian user behind the post appealed, recalling that the image was posted to raise awareness of possible signs of breast cancer, as indicated by the title and pink background (color of the campaign “Pink October” for the prevention of breast cancer).

2. Case concerning the publication of a quote from Nazi Joseph Goebbels
Here are the first 6 cases on which the 'Supreme Court of Facebook' will have to rule
Wikimedia Commons

The 2020-005-FB-UA case is based on a post by a Facebook user who shared an English quote attributed to Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, “stressing the need to appeal to emotions and instinct rather than intellect and asserting that the truth is not important.”

The quote had been used to criticize Donald Trump's government. Facebook removed the post because it violated the platform's rules on dangerous individuals and organizations.

1. Case concerning a publication on hydroxychloroquine as a remedy for Covid-19
Here are the first 6 cases on which the 'Supreme Court of Facebook' will have to rule
Annie Spratt / Unsplash

Among the first six cases to be dealt with by the Board, this is the only one to have been submitted to the Supervisory Board by Facebook, and not by a user. The 2020-006-FB-FBR case is very current: it concerns the video and text shared by a user in a Facebook group on Covid-19, concerning hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin.

The user criticizes the French authorities for not having authorized these drugs - nicknamed "Raoult's remedy" - as a treatment against Covid-19, and criticizes the government's "lack of a health strategy". Facebook said the video was viewed "about 50,000 times and shared just under 1,000 times," before being taken off the network for violence and provocation.


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