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Carolyn Wysinger is a teacher and activist who says Facebook censors her from discussing racism online, sometimes locking her out of her account.

USA TODAY

Facebook named the first 20 members of a new oversight board Wednesday. The oversight board has been called a “Supreme Court” for users of the giant social network and its Instagram app to appeal content moderation decisions made by Facebook.

Who’s on the oversight board?

Denmark’s first female Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Tawakkol Karman, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate from Yemen. Five Americans are on the board, including former federal Judge Michael McConnell and constitutional law expert Jamal Greene.

Why does Facebook have an oversight board?

To help the company make judgment calls on what constitutes free speech or harmful speech on the network. Conservatives including President Donald Trump have accused Facebook of censoring right-wing views. Civil rights groups say Facebook’s policies penalize African Americans and other minority users and permit white nationalism.

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Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg first promoted the idea of an oversight board to double-check the work of human moderators and artificial intelligence in November 2018. In September, the company filled in more details about the board.

“We are responsible for enforcing our policies every day and we make millions of content decisions every week,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post at the time. “But ultimately, I don’t believe private companies like ours should be making so many important decisions about speech on our own.”

What does the Facebook oversight board do?

The board is supposed to operate independently of Facebook to review the most controversial content questions on Facebook and Instagram as a de facto “Supreme Court.” It can overturn content moderation decisions by Facebook and even Zuckerberg. The oversight board’s rulings will be final and will help shape the company’s moderation policies.

How will appeals to the oversight board work?

Cases can be referred by Facebook or by a Facebook or Instagram user who has exhausted the appeals process. The oversight board then will have 90 days to make a decision. For more urgent cases referred by Facebook, a 30-day expedited review will be conducted.

Facebook and Instagram users will be issued a code which they can use to file an appeal on the oversight board’s website. If the board chooses to hear the case, Facebook will supply the case information. The oversight board expects to begin hearing user appeals later this year. 

How many members will the board have?

Forty. The remaining 20 board members will be chosen next year. Members serve three-year terms.

How is the oversight board funded?

With an irrevocable $130 million trust from Facebook.

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