Meta’s Oversight Board calls for stronger rules on Gender Based Violence


Meta’s external Oversight Board has overturned Meta’s original ruling about a case that mocked a Syrian activist, a female, suffering from physical wounds where her face was fully visible. The post in general was making fun of the activist and was mocking the physical injuries she was sustaining. The board decided that this was a direct violation of the Bullying and Harassment policies that are in the post guidelines for Meta’s products. They have since recommended the post be removed from all of the platforms as well as a review of policies to be implemented.

What is the Oversight Board?

The Oversight Board‘s purpose is to look at significant cases that may be able to be a litmus test on if Meta’s words are matching with their actions. They have the power to review cases to overturn or review cases that might be out of line with Meta’s policies on content. This is why this board is different to the internal content review, as the board are external and made up of 40 people from various backgrounds and demographics.

What the board decided

In this review, The Board assessed that there was a gap in Meta’s existing rules. As the rules were not seeming to be applied across the board when it comes to gender-based violence. For example, it was found that there were posts normalizing gender-based violence in instances where the person was either fictional or non-identifiable. The Board has highlighted this to Meta and has recommended that they develop a policy to address this gap. There is a need to establish clearer rules that stop the normalisation of gender-based violence; especially when there are other themes involved like mockery or justification.

There were other areas that the Board wished for Meta to clarify in their Bullying and Harassment Community Standard including the concept of “serious physical injury” being under the definition of a “medical condition.” Arguments can be made that it was not the case that the physical condition was due to a medical condition but more that this was an instance of violence. And that this obfuscation in the rules could be subject to misuse by bad actors. 

There are also concerns that the team in Facebook’s Safety team did not act as swiftly as required as the post was flagged several times but yet was not handled by a human reviewer. This may have to do with Meta’s Year of Efficiency where there were massive losses in its recent restructure. So, there simply just may have not been enough people there to review the complaint manually. 

What happens now

It’s expected that from these findings that Meta will implement the requested changes and will work further with The Oversight Board to ensure that things gender-based violence will be culled as appropriate.

Specious Coda-Bishop
Staff Writer @phandroid | Top 5 Kingdom Hearts 3 Speedrunner | Twitch Affiliate | Xbox Ambassador

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