Facebook's Oversight Board Just Offered Elon Musk A Helping Hand

Meta's Oversight Board, the independent content moderation team that judges Facebook and Instagram content, has offered Elon Musk its assistance, as the new owner of Twitter explores just how he'll ensure hate speech and more is ousted from the social network. Funded by Meta, the Oversight Board has unprecedented power over the social network's decisions, and operates independently. The offer comes in response to Musk's announcement of a Twitter Moderation Council, which will be formed to make decisions on things like questionable content and banned accounts.

The council — plans for which Musk revealed, of course, on Twitter — will consist of people "with widely diverse viewpoints," the new CEO said. Before it had been established, though, the existing policies that Twitter uses to govern things like targeted harassment, doxxing, and unsuitable media will still apply. "No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes," Musk added.

Content management is arguably the greatest challenge that social media networks face in the current age. With high-profile users — including former U.S. President Donald Trump — falling victim to policies that saw them ousted from Twitter and elsewhere, the justifications for unfettered free speech versus civility have become increasingly controversial.

Content moderation is a social-wide struggle

It's something Facebook and Instagram owner Meta knows all too well. Founded in May 2020, the Oversight Board focuses on precedent-setting decisions around moderation. It has the power not only to make decisions on things like post deletion and user bans, but to overrule Facebook and Instagram's own moderation decisions. Perhaps most notoriously, it upheld Facebook's decision to ban Trump after the U.S. Capitol attack in January 2021, though modified that ruling to reduce what had originally been an indefinite ban to a time-limited one instead.

Now, the Oversight Board has offered Elon Musk assistance as he navigates the same sort of decisions as new owner of Twitter. "Independent oversight of content moderation has a vital role to play in building trust in platforms and ensuring users are treated fairly," the Oversight Board tweeted on Friday afternoon. "This is a model we have been proving since 2020. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss Twitter's plans in more detail with the company."

It's unclear how Musk might respond to the offer. After spending $44 billion on Twitter, he quickly removed key execs including the CEO, CFO, and legal head Vijaya Gadde. The latter was the executive responsible for banning Trump from the social network.

While many have heralded Musk's takeover of Twitter as a move toward broader free speech, the new CEO himself has been more circumspect. In an open letter to Twitter advertisers earlier this week, he insisted that the site should be "a common digital town square" but not "a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!" The letter was seen by some as a tacit recognition that an anything-goes approach would not make sound business sense, even if it pleased some of Twitter's more extreme users.