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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook's independent Oversight Board will be led by two U.S. constitutional scholars, a former prime minister of Denmark and a former official with the Organization of American States.

The big picture: The board is a first-of-its-kind internet governance body, which Facebook spent $130 million to fund to provide independent review of its content moderation decisions.

Details: The board also named a slate of 20 members out of a projected full membership of 40 as part of an official launch Wednesday.

  • The membership spans the political spectrum and includes legal experts as well as people with backgrounds as human rights activists, journalists, political leaders and victims' advocates.

The co-chairs are:

  • Helle Thorning-Schmidt, former prime minister of Denmark and CEO of Save the Children.
  • Jamal Greene, a Columbia Law School professor.
  • Michael McConnell, former U.S. federal circuit court judge and now Stanford Law School professor.
  • Catalina Botero Marino, former Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, who now serves as Dean of the Universidad de los Andes Faculty of Law in Colombia.

By the numbers: All 20 current members of the board have experience advocating for human rights.

  • 70% have experience living in more than one country.
  • Only 5 members are based in the U.S. The rest are from all over the globe.
  • 90% of the current board members speak more than one language.
  • 29 languages are spoken amongst the 20 board members combined.

How it works: Users who are unhappy with a content takedown or other moderation decisions by Facebook will be able to file an appeal with the board, which will choose a handful of key cases to decide.

  • Facebook says it will treat individual content judgments by the board as binding, but responsibility for implementing board decisions will rest solely with the company.
  • Board members say they are committed to carefully balancing freedom of expression with other human rights, to operating transparently, and to representing global diversity.

What they're saying: On a press call before the announcement, the co-chairs described their work as novel and experimental and said they expect to make mistakes.

  • "It's one thing to complain about content moderation and the challenges involved in it. It's another to actually try to do something about it," Green said.

One huge challenge will be sifting through an expected firehose of potential controversies to pick the few that the organization will be able to adjudicate.

  • McConnell said the criteria will include cases that affect a large number of users, those that have a major effect on public discourse, and those that have a big impact on policies across Facebook's platform.

History lesson: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg first discussed the idea of a Supreme Court-like independent board in April 2018 as a way to counter criticism that the company was inconsistent and unaccountable in its decisions to take content down or leave it up.

  • In November 2018, Zuckerberg committed to the project publicly, and last year the organization rolled out a charter.
  • Facebook provided initial funding and chose the board's four co-chairs after wide consultation, but the board's leadership says it will now operate fully independently from the company.
  • Facebook says it is committed to implementing all board decisions "unless doing so violates the law."

Go deeper: Facebook's constitutional moment

Go deeper

Aug 11, 2020 - Economy & Business

Exclusive: Facebook cracks down on political content disguised as local news

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Facebook is rolling out a new policy that will prevent U.S. news publishers with "direct, meaningful ties" to political groups from claiming the news exemption within its political ads authorization process, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: Since the 2016 election, reporters and researchers have uncovered over 1,200 instances in which political groups use websites disguised as local news outlets to push their point of view to Americans.

Texas abortion law remains in effect after appeals court ruling

Pro- and anti-abortion protesters outside the Supreme Court as arguments begin about the Texas abortion law on Capitol Hill in November. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A U.S. appeals court transferred a challenge to Texas' law banning most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy to the state supreme court in a 2-1 vote on Monday evening.

Why it matters: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision means the country's most restrictive abortion law can remain in place for the time being.

2 hours ago - World

At least 2 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least two people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Monday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told Axios over the phone that two people had been confirmed to have died in the disaster.