Image for article titled Meta Asks Oversight Board if It Can Finally Stop Caring About Covid Misinformation

Meta wants the Oversight Board to weigh in on whether the misinformation is still a big deal.

Meta President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, said in a post that the company is asking its Oversight Board if measures put in place to address covid-19 misinformation are still necessary. The company's flexibility in removing incorrect information related to masks, social distancing, and vaccines was given during the Pandemic. Modifications to Meta's moderation strategy are still worthwhile with some countries moving quickly to reduce restrictions.

The time is right for us to seek input from the Oversight Board about our measures to address COVID-19 misinformation, including whether those introduced in the early days of an extraordinary global crisis is the right approach for the months and years to come. Since 2020, the world has changed a lot.

Meta launched the Oversight Board back in 2020 to be an independent panel that can review the company's most difficult moderation policies. It is not clear how or if the Oversight Board could enforce a decision Meta disagreed with. Meta discovered a weakness in the Oversight Board design after it withdrew an earlier request for policy guidance from the board. Panel members on Meta's "Supreme Court" do have a track record of advocating for human rights, but they were hand selected by the company and receive somewhere around $240,000 in compensation

The oversight board waded into a lot of murky water and came up with policy guidelines. They had the final say on whether or not Donald Trump was kept off the platform. In the last 25 years, the board has made decisions in 25 other cases. Meta had a hard time keeping up with the board's recommendations. Only 12 of the 69 recommendations issued by the board in the previous two quarters were fully implemented.

The policies in the Community Standards attempt to protect free expression while preventing dangerous content, according to this week's blogged post. It isn't easy to resolve the inherent tensions between free expression and safety when faced with fast moving challenges. We are looking for the advice of the Oversight Board.

Even though covid-19 isn't over in the real world, it's clear Meta would prefer to turn the page on one of its thorniest content moderation problems. Activists, digital information experts, and medical professionals have slammed Meta for its response to covid-19 misinformation since the beginning of the Pandemic. There are many concerns that haven't stopped. Two months ago, a group of more than 500 doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals published an open letter to Meta shareholders calling for a proposal that would mandate an independent assessment of the performance of the audit and risk oversight committee. The proposal was defeated by shareholders. President Joe Biden blamed Facebook for "killing people" before changing his mind.

Even though Facebook has put in place a number of new policies and procedures meant to address misinformation on its platforms, some studies suggest that they are being influenced by anti-vax content on the platform. According to a study published last summer, 25% of people who said they just received their news from Facebook said they wouldn't get vaccine. People who only received Newsmax news were more likely to identify as anti-vax. People who only read Fox News were more likely to be anti-vaxers than people who only read exclusive news on Facebook. That's Fox News.

Meta deserves some credit for this. It is a difficult and thankless job that is almost certain to leave one group or another feeling burned. It might make sense to ease up on covid-19 related content enforcement eventually. Meta can choose to own that policy change and pronounce it loudly, rather than being stuck with the oversight board. Meta is trying to use its Oversight Board as a punching bag after the Trump decision.