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COMMENTARY

Facebook starts global conversation in Singapore

Every single day, millions of people around the world share messages, videos and images with the people whom they care about, using Facebook. That also means that every single day, Facebook makes important decisions about what content stays up and what comes down, in line with our community standards. That has not always been easy as our experience around the world and in the Asia-Pacific has shown, but our priority remains keeping our global community safe, while making sure that everyone has a voice on issues which matter to them.

Facebook is embarking on a year-long process beginning in Singapore this week to design a global body that will have the authority to review our most challenging and contentious content moderation decisions. The aim is that this board will exercise independent judgement when reviewing our most difficult and disputed content decisions and hold us publicly accountable if we do not get them right. We want the board to ensure that Facebook strikes the right balance between giving people a voice and keeping people safe from abusive, harmful or false content. This should - in time - bring more perspective, accountability and transparency to our content decisions. The board's decisions will be binding. It will have the power to overrule or uphold Facebook's content decisions and recommend changes or additions to policies if they are out of line with our values.

Supporting this is a recently published draft charter outlining a model for how the board would operate. The charter includes a variety of considerations and questions that need to be answered in order to achieve our goal of convening an independent board: How many members should make up the board and how should they be selected? How should the board select cases to review? How can the board ensure cultural sensitivity and awareness when reviewing cases from all over the world? What level of transparency should the board give into its deliberations?

In the workshop that we held this week in Singapore - the first of several to be held around the world - we brought together a group of 40 academics, experts and civil society from across the Asia-Pacific to start to answer those questions. Our aim is to listen to our partners' diverse range of perspectives, and incorporate them into the board's design process. These insights will be critical in helping to design a board that can serve our global community and uphold our values, while bringing independent judgment to hard cases. Other workshops will follow this year in Delhi, Nairobi, Berlin, New York, Mexico City, with more to come.

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The success and the ultimate effectiveness of the board will depend on its ability to accommodate an inclusive and diverse range of perspectives, across language, culture and experience. Singapore - with its commitment to plurality - is an ideal place to start this global conversation. While the board cannot include representatives from every country and culture, the Asia-Pacific will be represented on the board alongside other regions. It will consist of up to 40 global experts with experience in content, privacy, free expression, human rights, journalism and safety. Where we need to, we will supplement member expertise through consultation with geographic and cultural experts to help ensure that decisions are fully informed. Above all, it is important that we achieve a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives to reflect our truly global community.

The establishment of the board will not interrupt or replace our efforts to address the challenges that we face, but instead will build on our recent investments and progress. Over the past year, we have tripled the number of people around the world working on safety and security to 30,000 - about half of whom are dedicated content reviewers. We have developed new policies to better protect our community from offline violence, and we have made huge strides in our automation tools that allow us to proactively detect violating content. This is some of the most important work that we are doing at Facebook, and we are determined to keep doing it better.

This week is about giving our community more say and building a process that will ensure that we are held accountable for some of the hardest decisions that we have to make - decisions that we understand can have a real world impact. We are proud that our first workshop is taking place here in Singapore, in this incredibly important region for Facebook, where we will continue to strive to provide economic opportunity, give people a voice and - most importantly - keep our community safe.

  • The writer is vice-president of public policy for Asia-Pacific at Facebook