Nov 4, 2022 - Technology

Facebook Oversight Board has advice for Elon Musk

At Web Summit in Lisbon Friday, from left: Axios' Ashley Gold; Dex Hunter-Torricke, VP of Global Communications & Public Engagement, Oversight Board; Alan Rusbridger, Oversight Board member. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Representatives of Facebook's independent Oversight Board have advice for Elon Musk as he decides the future of speech rules on Twitter: He should "start with the principle of not doing harm," they told Axios in an interview on stage at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal on Friday.

Why it matters: Musk has trumpeted a "free speech" agenda for the social network he now owns and runs but has already begun facing tough choices and criticism of his own posts.

The big picture: The Facebook Oversight Board was funded by Facebook but given an independent charter to provide independent review when users appeal the company's content moderation decisions.

Yes, but: Musk is making fast decisions and changing them just as fast.

What they're saying: "As Meta found out, when you move fast you sometimes break things," said Dex Hunter-Torricke, head of communications for the board.

  • "You can't piss off the advertisers" and constantly change your mind about the rules, said Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Prospect UK, a member of the Oversight Board and former editor of the Guardian.
  • "It took Mark Zuckerberg 15 years to figure out he needed an independent group of experts to solve content moderation problems," Rusbridger said. "It took Elon Musk three days."
  • Hunter-Torricke said the Oversight Board was open to working with platforms other than Meta, and would welcome conversations with Musk.

The intrigue: Musk has suggested he might restore former president Donald Trump's Twitter account, which was banned after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Meanwhile, Meta faces its own January deadline on whether to let former Trump back on its platform.

Facebook referred Trump's case to the board, and in May 2021, the board upheld Trump's ban but said the company needed a clearer and more consistent policy on suspensions.

  • "We told Meta that if and when Trump is allowed back, you need to ensure that he will not cause more violence," Hunter-Torricke said.
  • Hunter-Torricke said Meta could decide to let Trump back on with certain stipulations, and if Trump breaks those, the case could immediately go back to the board for another review.
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