If Facebook IS a publisher then it is covered by the US constitution’s protected for freedom of speech and freedom of the press – protections that it has sought on many occasions.
However, if it IS a publisher then it needs to take responsibility for what it publishes, but all too often it claims that users are responsible for its content and that it is a tech firm a NOT a publisher.
Facebook can’t have it both ways.
The fact is that Facebook is the ultimate arbiter over what does or doesn’t appear on its platform. Recently, under pressure from politicians and governments to moderate content and prevent ‘online harms’, it has removed various posts and banned various users.
Exactly how this impacts freedom of speech, what the moderation process is and how the appeals process works have become particularly thorny issues.
To address this Facebook is to create an Oversight Board that will review appeals to its policy decisions, like content takedowns, and make recommendations for changes. Zuckerberg claims that when this theoretically independent Oversight Board takes a stance, “The board’s decision will be binding, even if I or anyone at Facebook disagrees with it.”
“The board’s decision will be binding, even if I or anyone at Facebook disagrees with it,” Zuckerberg
Regulators, users and rivals will be watching with interest to see how this goes.