‘I have no intention of protecting Facebook’ … Afia Asare-Kyei, Facebook’s Oversight Board member pledges promotion of transparency and freedom of expression 


Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei, one of 20 new members of an Oversight Board at Facebook, has stated that her new role would not be used to protect Facebook but rather push for transparency and freedom of expression.

“I have no intention or interest in protecting Facebook and I would not have accepted this role if I believed that the board could be used as a shield for Facebook,” she told the B&FT in an exclusive interview as she prepares to begin her work later in the year.

“The board does not take responsibility away from Facebook, it introduces a new level of oversight that will make Facebook more accountable and improve the way they make decisions. The Oversight Board will hold Facebook to account, and will both scrutinize and publish how the company implements binding decisions and policy recommendations,” she added.

Established by Facebook but with operational and financial autonomy, the new oversight board according to its charter, is committed to protect free expression by making principled, independent decisions about important pieces of content and by issuing policy advisory opinions on Facebook’s content policies, and to build the Oversight Board into a body that will bring a new form of accountability and oversight to some of the most challenging content decisions of the time.

Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei, a human rights advocate who works on women’s rights, media freedom, and access to information issues across Africa at the Open Society Initiative for West Africa is one of three Africans sitting on the 20-member board which is made up of a former editor of the Guardian, a global newspaper; communications scholars; law professors; a Nobel Peace Prize laureate; a former U.S. federal circuit judge; a former director general of the Israeli Ministry of Justice; a former judge and vice president of the European Court of Human Rights; and a former Prime Minister of Denmark.

To her, Facebook has made a strong public commitment to abide by the rulings of the board and the board expects them to live up to their pledges. The board, she said, would be publishing an annual report that assesses how the company is responding to decisions and won’t hesitate to call out lack of implementation.

Even though Facebook owns platforms such as WhatsApp, Messenger, Oculus and others, she stressed that the board’s mandate is limited to Facebook and Instagram only.

Asked about how the board will prioritize and select cases, Ms. Asare-Kyei noted that the board would not be able to address all cases but would focus on cases that potentially impact many users, are of critical importance to public discourse, or raise questions about Facebook’s policies.

“When the board begin hearing cases later this year, users will be able to appeal to the board in cases where Facebook has removed their content, but over the following months we will add the opportunity to review appeals from users who want Facebook to remove content. Users who do not agree with the result of a content appeal to Facebook can refer their case to the board by following guidelines that will accompany the response from Facebook.

The board can also review content referred to it by Facebook. This could include many significant types of decisions, including content on Facebook or Instagram, on advertising, or groups. The board will also be able to make policy recommendations to Facebook based on our case decisions.”

Her hope is that when her time is up, she would be remembered as being part of a pioneering independent process that promotes human rights and freedom of expression in a consistent, neutral, rational and transparent way and helps to address the concerns and demands of the general public who use Facebook and Instagram.

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