Facebook Considering Forming an Election Advisory Panel: Report

Facebook is considering forming a commission to advise it on global election-related matters, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The Times said Facebook has approached academics and policy experts about a proposed commission that would allow the social media platform to shift some of its political decision-making to an advisory body.

The proposed commission could decide on matters such as what to do about election-related misinformation, and the viability of political ads, Times sources said.

Facebook is expected to announce the formation of the commission this fall in preparation for the 2022 midterm elections. However, Times sources warned the effort still could fall apart.

The Times said Facebook has had “a spotty track record on election-related issues,” dating back to the 2016 presidential election when Russians manipulated platform advertising and posts.

The social media giant created an Oversight Board in 2018 to decide whether the company was correct to remove certain posts from its platforms. Facebook said the board was independent, but it appointed the people on the panel and pays them through a trust.

Unlike the Oversight Board, the election commission would provide proactive guidance without the company having made an earlier call, sources told the Times.

Facebook has been criticized of political bias and accused of suppressing conservative voices on its platform. In June, it announced that former President Donald Trump’s account was suspended for at least two years as it enforces new “protocols to be applied in exceptional cases.”

The Oversight Board upheld the suspension of Trump’s account but criticized “indefinite suspension” as a penalty.

The board has offered decisions on more than a dozen other content cases that it calls “highly emblematic” of broader issues, such as whether certain COVID-related posts should remain posted on the network and hate speech issues in Myanmar.

Lawmakers and political ad buyers slammed Facebook for changing the rules around political ads before last year’s presidential election.

After saying it would bar the purchase of new political ads the week before the election, Facebook then decided to temporarily ban all U.S. political advertising after the polls closed on Election Day.

The company also reversed its original stance that what political leaders posted online was newsworthy and should not be touched.

Civil rights groups and Democrats have criticized Facebook for allegedly allowing political misinformation to spread online.

It’s not just in the U.S. where Facebook’s influence on politics are felt, something of note with upcoming elections to be held in countries such as Hungary, Germany, Brazil, and the Philippines.

“There is already this perception that Facebook, an American social media company, is going in and tilting elections of other countries through its platform,” Stanford University professor Nathaniel Persily told the Times. “Whatever decisions Facebook makes have global implications.”

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