It was January 6th, the day the Electoral College was to confirm President Joe Bidden’s victory. Former US president Donal Trump rallied his supporters at the Ellipse and gave a speech, just before the attack on the US Capitol. Before this, the former president’s social media presence created so much ruckus, especially during and after the election. His posts were becoming increasingly inflammatory. He used his massive social media followership to make several false claims about the outcome of the election.
I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump from Twitter, or how we got here. After a clear warning we’d take this action, we made a decision with the best information we had based on threats to physical safety both on and off Twitter. Was this correct?
— jack⚡️ (@jack) January 14, 2021
After the attack on the US Capitol, many social media platforms suspended the former president’s account. Facebook and Twitter were the first among them. Shortly afterward, Snapchat and Google followed, stating fears of future violence as a reason. However, he still has access to social media platforms like Parler and GAB. In a report, Twitter gave its reasons for permanently suspending the @realdonaltrump account, which was Donal Trump’s official account. While Twitter permanently banned Donald Trump from using the platform, Facebook took a more cautious path.
Facebook Oversight Board Mediates Over The Ban On Donald Trump’s Account
The Facebook Oversight Board (FOB) acts as a mediator over Facebook’s decisions with the power to overturn such decisions if necessary. The idea for the board was conceived in November 2018. But, it wasn’t until May 6, 2020, that Facebook announced the 20 members that make up the board. However, the board was not very active until early this year.
One of the major cases the Oversight board presided over was that of the indefinite ban placed on the former president of the United States, Donal Trump. Facebook Oversight Board was quick to state that an indefinite ban isn’t appropriate. Facebook later handed the case over to the Oversight Board to decide on the appropriate course of action to take.
The Oversight Board has accepted a case from Facebook to examine their decision to indefinitely suspend former US President Donald Trump from access to Facebook and Instagram. 1/5 https://t.co/qG6KC6qYDi
— Oversight Board (@OversightBoard) January 21, 2021
Public comments were welcomed as part of the review process. Because of the interest shown by the public, the FOB had to extend the deadline for receiving comments. Additional time was then taken to carefully review all the comments that had been received. Finally, the Oversight Board announced on Twitter that it will give its decision on the Trump ban after a prolonged review process. This was set to take place on May 5th.
In their final decision, the FOB voted to uphold the ban. However, they requested that Facebook reviews the decision in six months. Stating that the “arbitrary penalty” of an indefinite suspension is “standardless” and “inappropriate”. The Oversight Board also said that Facebook should find and apply a “clear and consistent penalty with its rules for severe violation”.
The Oversight Board will announce its decision on the case concerning former US President Trump on its website at https://t.co/NNQ9YCrcrh on May 5, 2021 at approximately 9:00 a.m. EDT.
— Oversight Board (@OversightBoard) May 3, 2021
The Board has upheld Facebook’s decision on January 7 to suspend then-President Trump from Facebook and Instagram. Trump’s posts during the Capitol riot severely violated Facebook’s rules and encouraged and legitimized violence. https://t.co/veRvWpeyCi
— Oversight Board (@OversightBoard) May 5, 2021
Meet The Africans On Facebook’s Oversight Board
Members of the Oversight Board are of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and professions. These members were chosen because of their skills, expertise, and experience in thoughtful deliberations, policy-based decision-making, and familiarity with digital content and governance. Among the 20 members that make up the board, 3 are from Africa, and they are;
#1. Maina Kiai
Kiai is a Kenyan who serves in different capacities as a human rights activist. Presently, he is the Director of Global Alliances and Partnerships at Human Rights Watch.
Education And Professional Experience
Kiai has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in law from Nairobi and Harvard University respectively. Before his present role, he held many relevant offices in both private and public organizations including Rapporteur for Freedom of Assembly and Association in the UN, Co-director of Inform Action, Executive Director of Kenya Human Rights Commission, Founding Executive Chair of Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, and Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Program.
Awards And Recognition
He’s a recipient of both international and local awards and recognitions. These include the George Kirkland Human Rights Award from AFL-CIO, the Freedom Award from Freedom House, and the Leo Navas Award from UN Foundation of USA.
#2. Julie Owono
Owono hails from Cameroon. She is a digital rights advocate with an extensive background in international law. She’s also the Executive Director of Internet Sans Frontières, an organization founded in 2008 to defend digital rights and internet access.
Education And Professional Experience
Julie Owono has a master’s degree in International Law from La Sorbonne Law School, Paris. Before joining the board, she worked in different capacities to promote online content moderation by introducing local context on social platforms in Africa. Her focus is to prevent disinformation and hate speeches. A writer and analyst, Owono’s roles cuts across technology, politics, and law. She’s a member and fellow of reputable organizations including;
- Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University (Fellow)
- Digital Civil Society Fellow at Stanford University (Fellow)
- UNESCO’s Ad Hoc Expert Group (AHEG) for the Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (Member)
- Expert Committee on Digital Inclusion of the World Benchmarking Alliance (Member)
- Global Network Initiative’s Board (Member)
#3. Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei
She is the Program Manager at Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), an organization that operates in 10 West African countries. Her duty is to develop and manage the justice, equality, and human rights program of the organization. She has dual citizenship in Ghana and South Africa.
Education And Professional Experience
Asare-Kyei obtained her bachelor of law degrees from the University of Pretoria in South Africa. A human rights lawyer and development expert, she is committed to pushing the frontiers of freedom and justice in society. Asare-Kyei’s passion for Africa is visible in her work. Her main focus is the vulnerable and underrepresented groups on the continent. She has been involved in developing transformative social programs and influencing policies that help to empower the underrepresented minority.
Establishing an Oversight Board is a step in the right direction. It allows an independent view of the decisions that Facebook makes concerning content moderation. However, what we find thoughtful is the diversity employed in selecting the board members. Africa is home to millions of social media users. It is only fair that some members of the board are Africans.
So what are your thoughts? Is Facebook right to set up an independent board over its content management decisions? Do you think the Oversight Board’s decision to uphold the ban on Donald Trump’s account for the next six months is fair? Kindly leave your comments below.