With more than two billion users worldwide, Facebook is inundated every week with millions of decisions about what content is deemed appropriate. To help with some of the most challenging content moderation decisions, the social network company has set out to form an external Oversight Board to provide a layer of additional transparency and fairness to its current system. In doing so, Facebook representatives have traveled around the world for six months, hosting six in-depth workshops and 22 roundtables in order to seek feedback on how the company can create a stronger, more transparent content governance system.
As an ARTICLE 19 International Board member and trustee, Jackson Walker partner Robert P. Latham was invited in February 2019 to participate in a workshop held by Stanford University’s Global Digital Policy Incubator in Palo Alto, Calif. The multistakeholder working meeting, entitled “Social Media Councils: From Concept to Reality,” was attended by representatives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter and discussed social media councils (SMCs) as a solution for online content moderation.
Following the workshop, Bob was invited to serve as a panelist at a town hall meeting on Facebook’s Oversight Board, which was hosted by the University of Oklahoma College of Law’s Center for International Business & Human Rights on May 31, 2019. Fellow panelists included Megan Lambert, Legal Fellow of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oklahoma; Brent Harris, Director of Governance and Global Affairs at Facebook; and Robert Traynham, Head of Public Policy Communications at Facebook. During the town hall meeting, Bob addressed concerns related to:
- Establishing credibility when applying First Amendment principles and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to social media content.
- Defining the level of commitment and accountability that would be required of board members, including the time-consuming aspects of making a decision and investigating facts.
- Managing expectations when setting protocols for how millions of requests are submitted to the Oversight Board.
- Selecting diverse, unbiased board members with credibility to enhance Facebook’s efforts.
“When we say we’re going to uphold freedom of expression and freedom of thought, but we’re going to do it in a human rights context, it gets a little tricky,” Bob noted during the meeting. “To me, it makes sense to align—as best can be done—the Oversight Board’s mission and mandate with human rights protocols, because it would save reinventing the wheel and, I think, would enhance the credibility of the Oversight Board, which has to be one of the most paramount concerns.”
“When we say we’re going to uphold freedom of expression and freedom of thought, but we’re going to do it in a human rights context, it gets a little tricky.”
Facebook’s global outreach on this issue culminated in a report entitled “Global Feedback & Input on the Facebook Oversight Board for Content Decisions” on June 27, 2019, citing Bob’s statements made during the town hall meeting.
For more information about the report, view Facebook news release “Global Feedback and Input on the Facebook Oversight Board for Content Decisions.”
Robert P. Latham has developed nationally recognized experience in the areas of media law and intellectual property litigation and chairs both practice areas at Jackson Walker. As well as a trial lawyer, Bob is a published author and columnist, and a much sought-after speaker nationally and internationally. He has spoken on matters related to the right of free speech, technology and intellectual property litigation, litigation strategy, dispute resolution, and sports – from Antwerp to Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro to Glasgow, and Melbourne to Yangzhou. Bob has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America under First Amendment Law and Litigation – First Amendment, among other categories. In addition to his work with ARTICLE 19, Bob is a Governing Committee member of the American Bar Association Forum on Communications Law and a former president of the Media Law Resource Center Defense Counsel Section. He also serves on the World Rugby Executive Committee, chairs the World Rugby Regulations Committee, and is a 2017 inductee into the Texas Rugby Union Hall of Fame.
To explore Bob’s involvement with the ARTICLE 19 International Board, read “Bob Latham Voted in as ARTICLE 19 International Board Member and Trustee.”