Facebook Oversight Board Co-Chair: Conservatives Will Say Board Is ‘Loaded’ with Progressives

May 19th, 2020 3:07 PM

A co-chair of the Facebook Oversight Board admitted that conservatives had reason to believe that the Board was “loaded” with “people from the progressive side of the spectrum.”

Four members of the Facebook Oversight Board answered some questions in an interview, hosted by the Aspen Institute. Co-chair Michael McConnell, a former federal circuit judge and professor at Stanford Law, answered a question from Politico that asked how the Board would respond to conservative criticisms. McConnell answered, “And of course, people from a conservative side of the spectrum are going to look at this and say, ‘Oh my goodness, this certainly looks loaded with people from the progressive side of the spectrum.’”

He then tried to dismiss conservative criticisms: “But it doesn’t have to be divided between red and blue. This is— A commitment to civil liberties can transcend one’s politics.”

Part of the problem that conservatives had with the board was also addressed later in the interview. When someone asked whether Facebook had inquired about the political positions of each member in the interview process, co-chair and Vice President of the Cato Institute John Samples said, “A lot of the questions went to issues of conflict of interest, and possible conflicts of interest, and your thoughts about that.” But he noted: “There were no questions about politics.”

Aspen Institute Executive Director Vivian Schiller asked the Board members about political ads. She said, “Will those ads that are such a source of controversy, will those be part of the remit of the Oversight Board, if an ad is taken down, for example, will that be part of the cases that you can hear?”

Samples responded, “My understanding is about the content of other ads, or maybe ads in general too, will be within the remit of the board, the content of them or decisions about them. But it’s a complicated matter you see, because they already have a policy and carried out with regard to the campaigns.”

A question from the audience asked about the versions of conspiracy theory video Plandemic that were still being circulated on Facebook, and whether the board could make a ruling about the implementation of Facebook’s policies. Co-chair and Columbia Law professor Jamal Greene said that “I’d rather not talk about the specific case.” He mentioned that the board would not be addressing whether or not Facebook would be just “doing a bad job as a matter of engineering or as a matter of human content moderation.”