Facebook names an Indian among first 20 members of Oversight Board

Facebook names an Indian among first 20 members of Oversight Board
Photo Credit: Reuters
7 May, 2020

Facebook has appointed the first 20 members of its Oversight Board, an independent body that can overturn content-related decisions made by the company and CEO Mark Zuckerberg for both Facebook and its group company Instagram.

Sudhir Krishnaswamy, vice chancellor of the National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, is the only Indian on the board. He holds a PhD from the University of Oxford, and has authored a book called Democracy and Constitutionalism in India.

Other members of the board will be chosen by its four co-chairs Helle Thorning-Schmidt, former prime minister of Denmark; Jamal Greene, a professor at Columbia Law School in the US; Catalina Boter-Marino, an international human rights law expert from Colombia; and Michael W McConnell, director of constitutional law centre at Stanford Law School in the US.

In January, the company appointed Thomas Hughes as the director of the board to lead its administrative staff. He is a former executive director of Article 19, an international non-governmental organisation that fights for freedom of expression and digital rights.  

The Oversight Board is expected to appoint a total of 40 members across diverse disciplines and geographies to decide on content issues for Facebook and Instagram, and recommend relevant content policies. 

The body was proposed by Zuckerberg in November 2018 and created as an independent entity with the formation of Oversight Board Trust in December 2019. The board draws its funding from Facebook, which has given an initial commitment of $130 million for a period of six years to cover operational costs. 

“As it does, we know the board will play an increasingly important role in setting precedent and direction for content policy at Facebook,” Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs and communication, said in a post on the company’s website.

Facebook and its group companies, including Instagram and messaging platform WhatsApp, are under scrutiny in India for their content policies, due to issues such as spread of misinformation, hate speech and objectionable content. 

India ranked only second to the US government in requesting data on specific Facebook posts for the first half of 2019, according to a report published by the company. This did not include data on requests made by the government for WhatsApp messages, which has over 450 million users in the country. 

The Personal Data Protection Bill, which is pending in Parliament, also seeks to implement verified social media accounts for users.