Facebook's review board could include Singapore experts

MS MONIKA BICKERT, vice-president of global policy management at Facebook
MS MONIKA BICKERT, vice-president of global policy management at FacebookST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Political content may be one area it oversees; workshop to gather feedback kicks off here

Representatives from Singapore are among potential members to sit on an independent board Facebook is planning to set up to review appeals on its content decisions.

One area where the board could have oversight would be political content, which a regional centre in Singapore will be monitoring closely ahead of upcoming elections in countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.

Details on the board, which is to be established by the end of this year, are being hammered out, Facebook's vice-president of global policy management Monika Bickert told The Straits Times.

She was in Singapore yesterday to start a two-day workshop to gather feedback on the proposed board from about 50 representatives from Singapore and the Asia-Pacific. It is being held at the Facebook office in South Beach Tower.

More workshops will follow in other cities such as New Delhi and Berlin in the coming months, though Facebook declined to disclosethe identities of the organisations and individuals attending the workshops.

When established, the board members of up to 40 global experts and its decisions on appeal will be made public.

Users - from individuals to large organisations - can appeal to the board if they want to contest decisions on content that have been removed by Facebook's content review team, or if a post that they have reported for violating community standards does not get taken down by Facebook.

Ms Bickert, 42, who leads Facebook's global content policy team, said the board will handle mainly "edge cases", which refer to content that may not contravene rules under its community standards at first glance, but which may still be seen as problematic to some communities - or vice versa.

One example of such content would be Facebook's widely panned decision to censor an iconic Vietnam War photo of a naked girl escaping a napalm bombing in 2016.

ACCOUNTING FOR LOCAL VARIATION

Our policies have helped us deal with these edge cases, but it's not perfect because people may say that they will decide differently... That's why we are doing these workshops to figure out how to get truly global representation that can also take into account how content affects people locally.

MS MONIKA BICKERT, vice-president of global policy management at Facebook, on the type of cases the planned review board on content decisions will mainly handle.

The photo was initially removed as it had contravened Facebook's policy on child nudity, said Ms Bickert.

The image was later reinstated and new policies were introduced to allow graphic content that is newsworthy or of public interest to stay up. But similar situations where content may be deemed acceptable or not, depending on cultural context, may still crop up in future.

"Our policies have helped us deal with these edge cases, but it's not perfect because people may say that they will decide differently... That's why we are doing these workshops to figure out how to get truly global representation that can also take into account how content affects people locally," said Ms Bickert.

 

Facebook, which has come under fire for its role in alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, has also learnt from the past and taken steps towards maintaining the integrity of elections over the past 11/2 years, she said.

 
 

These include making sure that its officers are actively engaging electoral commissions and political groups on the ground in countries where there are planned elections, as well as weeding out fake accounts that are often the culprits of political disinformation.

Today, more than a million fake Facebook accounts are removed on a daily basis, she said.

It was also reported that Facebook will begin vetting political advertisers in Europe and displaying who paid for specific ads from next month, ahead of European Union elections in May.

Asked if such features could be rolled out in Singapore, Ms Bickert said Facebook is still in the midst of learning from and refining its policies on elections, and coming up with those that would work in different jurisdictions.

"We are trying to see what makes sense in each location and building solutions based on that reality."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2019, with the headline 'Facebook's review board could include S'pore experts'. Print Edition | Subscribe