Facebook Oversight Board To Review Case Regarding 2020 Artsakh War As One Of Its First Six Rulings Ever.

The Facebook Oversight Board was first announced in 2018 as a “Facebook Supreme Court” of sorts that will rule over what can and cannot be said on the social media platform. The project’s aim is to “help answer some of the most difficult questions around freedom of expression online.” Appeal submissions began in October 2020 and as of December 8, 2020 the first six cases have begun being looked at. 

One of these six cases is regarding a user’s claim that Armenians have built most of Azerbaijan’s capital city Baku and that Azeri’s have vandalized and destroyed many of the churches that once stood there. The post was originally removed from Facebook for breaking rules on hate speech however the user has tried to justify himself by explaining that the post “was to demonstrate the destruction of cultural and religious monuments”. 

The case is crucial for both sides as the decision could justify the removal of thousands of pro-Armenian or pro-Azerbaijani posts that flooded Facebook and Instagram during the past few months. The case could also point to who is winning the much talked about “digital” or “information” war being waged online by the two sides.

The Facebook Oversight Board, once fully staffed, will have a board of 40 people from “diverse backgrounds and disciplines.” It currently has 20 board members none of which hail from Armenia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, or Russia, the four countries most heavily involved in the war. The 20 current members are all human rights and freedom advocates from different walks of life and different parts of the globe and have no professional association with Facebook itself. Instead they operate completely independently while Facebook has agreed to regulate its content as the Board sees fit.

The Facebook Oversight Board is a body that makes content moderation decisions on the social media platform Facebook, specifically about handling appeals for blocked or removed content. Proposed in November 2018 by Mark Zuckerberg, the first members of the board were announced on May 6, 2020.

By Shant Hambarchian

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