Facebook Rejects Oversight Board’s Recommendation to Loosen COVID-19 Policies

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Facebook is responding to the Oversight Board’s first-ever set of recommendations. The social network agrees with all of the Oversight Board’s suggestions except one: its request to relax COVID-19 misinformation takedowns.

Facebook Won’t Back Down on COVID-19 Misinformation

Facebook shared its response to the Oversight Board’s recommendations in a post on the About Facebook blog. The Oversight Board began making content moderation decisions in January 2021, and ended up overturning a number of decisions initially made by Facebook.

Included in the Oversight Board’s report on its moderation decisions, it listed 17 recommendations. Facebook isn’t obligated to adopt these recommendations, but it must at least consider them.

Facebook announced that it will take action on 11 of these recommendations, and is “assessing feasibility” on five.

Facebook Oversight Board Responses

Image Credit: Facebook

The only one it won’t take action on is the Board’s request for Facebook to loosen its strict standards on COVID-19 misinformation. This was in regards to the Board’s ruling on Facebook’s decision to remove a post that cited hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as effective COVID-19 cures.

The Oversight Board ruled that this post should be restored, and said that Facebook should “adopt a range of less intrusive measures” in cases “where a potential for physical harm is identified but is not imminent.”

Facebook disagreed with this, stating: “In consultation with global health authorities, we continue to believe our approach of removing COVID-19 misinformation that might lead to imminent harm is the correct one during a global pandemic.”

Although Facebook said it will “take no further action on this recommendation,” it did reinstate the post in question, as the Board’s decision required it to. Even still, Facebook promises to “continually evaluate and calibrate” its policies regarding posts about COVID-19 treatments.

The platform takes a tough stance on COVID-19 misinformation, and that clearly isn’t going to change any time soon. Facebook already removes or labels posts that contain misleading information about the pandemic, and has even started taking action on posts with misinformation related to the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Oversight Board Might Be What Facebook Needs

Facebook needs an organization that oversees its actions, and the Oversight Board is exactly that. Facebook’s decisions to remove certain types of content aren’t always just, and the Oversight Board should be able to identify cases in which Facebook made the wrong choice.

It seems that the Oversight Board is doing its job, as it has already challenged Facebook’s decisions to remove a number of controversial posts. Hopefully, the Board will continue to keep Facebook in check going forward.

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