Facebook ‘Supreme Court’ Hit With More Than 1 Million Censorship Appeals

Mark Zuckerberg Smiles during testimony (Pool/Getty)

The Facebook Oversight Board, colloquially known as the “Facebook Supreme Court,” received more than a million appeals from Facebook and Instagram users hoping to overturn censorship by the company, according to the Board’s first annual report.

The report, which reveals the extent of censorship on the platform, was published last week. The Board acknowledged that the million-plus figure represented an “enormous pent-up demand” for the ability to appeal censorship decisions by Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram.

“The volume of cases submitted speaks to the importance of the Board’s work to users,” wrote the Board.

More than eight in ten of the appeals related to Facebook or Instagram’s policies on “bullying, hate speech, or violence and incitement,” according to the Board.

The full breakdown was:

  • Bullying & harassment – 32.6 percent
  • Hate speech – 28.9 percent
  • Violence and incitement – 22.8 percent
  • Adult nudity and sexual activity – 7.2 percent
  • Dangerous individuals and organizations – 4.1 percent
  • Other – 4.4 percent

The vast majority of appeals concerned posts on Facebook, with just one percent coming from Instagram users.

According to the report, which can be read in full here, the Board received an average of 2,649 appeals per day, with over two-thirds of submitted cases coming from the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Nearly half (49.4 percent) came from just the U.S. and Canada.

The majority of people who feel they are being unfairly censored by Facebook and Instagram, therefore, live in the supposedly free western world.

The Board noted the slant towards western countries in its analysis:

We recognize that this distribution does not reflect the spread of Facebook and Instagram users worldwide. In 2019, for example, only six of the 20 countries with the most Facebook users were in Europe and North America, while India has the most Facebook and Instagram users of any country. The lower numbers of user appeals from outside Europe and the U.S. & Canada could also indicate that many of those using Facebook and Instagram in the rest of the world are not aware they can appeal Meta’s content moderation decisions to the Board.

The Oversight Board was announced in 2020 as a semi-independent body that would be given the power to hear appeals from Facebook and Instagram users and overturn content moderation decisions. The Board quickly attracted condemnation from conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic, due to the ideological slant of its members, who overwhelmingly came from the liberal left.

Are you an insider at Google, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or any other tech company who wants to confidentially reveal wrongdoing or political bias at your company? Reach out to Allum Bokhari at his secure email address allumbokhari@protonmail.com


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