Today, Facebook announced the first panelists – the judges of what Mark Zuckerberg once, perhaps to his regret, called the Facebook Supreme Court – of its newly created Oversight Board. An external body with the power, according to its draft charter, “to reverse Facebook’s decisions about whether to allow or remove certain posts on the platform,” the group is more impressive than a skeptic could have imagined. Its participants may lean toward the United States and Europe, but there is global participation.
I know some of the panelists as friends and colleagues, several who are major figures in the world of human rights law and advocacy. As examples:
▪ Catalina Botero, one of the four co-chairs, is the former Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression in the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights and a leading jurist in Colombia.
▪ Maina Kiai is a former United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and a leading figure in Kenyan civil society.
▪ Evelyn Aswad, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, was a key member of the State Department’s legal office dealing with human rights issues and has written trenchantly about the role of human rights in content moderation.
▪ Julie Owono leads the Paris-based Internet Sans Frontiers and knows as much as anyone about digital rights, especially in Africa.
▪ Nighat Dad has fought for digital rights as a lawyer in Pakistan for years and is deservedly well-known internationally for her brave advocacy for online freedom of expression.