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Washington, D.C. – John Samples, vice president of the Cato Institute, has been named to an independent oversight board, Oversight Board LLC, charged with hearing appeals of content moderation decisions made by Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook originally announced plans for an oversight board in 2018, and today named members and co‐chairs of the panel.
“It is a tribute to John’s work on free speech in the digital age that he has been selected to serve on the board,” said Peter Goettler, Cato’s president and CEO. “Creation of this board may have generated controversy in some circles, but we believe it is an effort to achieve important objectives. First, by establishing the board, Facebook is affirming that content moderation on private platforms should be executed by those platforms, and not the government. Second, Facebook’s selection of a First Amendment advocate such as John for membership gives us hope that the board will maintain strong support for free expression.”
Samples, who has worked on First Amendment, public opinion, and representative government policies for 20 years at Cato, will join a group of 20 international experts on the board, which will have the ability to overrule Facebook’s own decisions concerning content.
“Facebook is giving users a way to appeal its content moderation decisions,” said Samples. “The board is charged with making sure such decisions agree with Facebook’s values and community standards. Facebook has said ‘voice’ is its paramount value, so I envision that the board will advance the cause of free speech in the digital era.”
Samples also expressed confidence that the geographical and ideological diversity of the board will guard against political bias.
Samples has been living in Northern California for the last year, working on issues related to social media and speech regulation, which he first explored in a 2019 white paper.
Facebook will fully fund the board’s operations, and the board’s code of conduct, charter and bylaws will ensure its complete independence and redress any conflicts of interest. Facebook management will be able to ask the board for policy advice but will not have a voice in cases the board and its staff choose to review or in the review process itself.
“Community standards that determine inappropriate content have been in use at Facebook for the last several years, so we are not starting from scratch on that front,” said Samples. “The oversight board will be seeking to make an existing process more consistent, transparent, and independent.”
For more information on the board and how it will determine what cases it reviews, please see Facebook’s announcement.