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Meet the Indian Who Can Hold Zuckerberg & Facebook Accountable

“A bold experiment” is how Dr Krishnaswamy, the only Indian on the board, described it in an interview to The Quint.

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Tech and Auto
2 min read

Editor: Sushovan Sircar & Varun Sharma

You can expect transparency, you can expect articulate rationality. Because Facebook and Instagram are bound, you can expect accountability.

Dr Sudhir Krishnaswamy, selected as a member of the Facebook Oversight Board, explains the core facets of an independent body that will govern the social media platform’s content.

In other words, the 20-member board comprising distinguished names from around the world, will have the last word on what content stays up and (eventually) what content comes down.

“A bold experiment” is how Dr Krishnaswamy, the only Indian on the board, described the Board in a conversation with The Quint.

Facebook, on 7 May, announced the first 20 members for its independent content oversight board which included Sudhir Krishnaswamy, who is vice-chancellor of the National Law School of India University in Bengaluru.

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He will be joining Helle Thorning-Schmidt, former prime minister of Denmark, and Tawakkol Karman, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate from Yemen who came to prominence for her activism during the Arab Spring. The board also includes Alan Rusbridger, former editor-in-chief of The Guardian, who had handled the publication of the Edward Snowden leaks in 2013.

'The Board is Completely Independent of the Company’

Acknowledging the issue of content moderation on Facebook and Instagram as a “problem”, he said “this is a very innovative and serious effort to deal with that problem of content moderation.”

For CEO Mark Zuckerberg, content policies and moderation, particularly those that are seen to constitute hate speech and misinformation, have been seen among the major failures of his company.

Dubbed as “the supreme court of Facebook”, how independent can the Board be?

“I think calling it the supreme court of anything is a bit much. I think what it is, is a bold and interesting experiment in content moderation and content policy,” Krishnaswamy told The Quint.

“The Board is completely independent of the company. So, we engage only with each other. We don’t engage with anyone from the company. We are not bound by any other commercial or other considerations the company might have.”
Dr Sudhir Krishnaswamy, Member, Facebook Oversight Board

He said the Board is expected to begin adjudicating on cases by September-October once the internal protocols are decided.

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Can The Board Enforce Policy Changes at Facebook?

The Board’s focus, however, will be on adjudication of cases related to content moderation. Its decisions on content will be binding for the company.

“What ties us to these companies is that these companies have publicly committed to being bound by these decisions,” said Krishnaswamy.

However, the company is not bound to follow policy recommendations of the Board.

“On a case-by-case decision making (basis) they are bound. On policy recommendations, they are not bound.”
Dr Sudhir Krishnaswamy, Member, Facebook Oversight Board

The Board will produce annual reports of all case decisions as public documents and “will have pointers towards future directions.”

“And I suppose the best commitment we can get is that if we are pushing in this direction and making the company publicly accountable, the policy will also extend to reflect these concerns,” he added.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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