NL Interview: Sudhir Krishnaswamy on Facebook’s oversight board, and ‘cultural difficulties’ of moderation

He's the only Indian on the 20-member board constituted to oversee a new model of content moderation at Facebook and Instagram.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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Over the past few years, Facebook has been embroiled in a number of controversies, especially when it comes to the tech giant’s moderation policy. To address the issue, the company recently appointed a 20-member oversight board that will have the final say over content moderation issues.

In this interview, Abhinandan Sekhri talks to Dr Sudhir Krishnaswamy, the only Indian member of the oversight board. Sudhir is vice chancellor of the National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, and co-founder of the Centre for Law and Policy Research.

Sudhir explains Facebook’s moderation process and the role of the oversight board. “Facebook and Instagram have already set up two layers of content moderation, of policy review. They have a technological layer and they have a human moderation layer. Those things will not change,” he says. “It is fair to say those layers will handle the vast majority of cases.”

He continues: “The range of parties who may be unhappy may be again large, so those users or others who have complaints about Facebook content will have the opportunity to take this up one more level [to the oversight board].”

Abhinandan asks about the cultural difficulties of moderation, and how the oversight board will be able to grapple with such diverse contextual issues. Sudhir says when the oversight board is unsure of a certain meaning, it will “call on people within those communities of users, or cultural, linguistic or ethnic communities, to understand that meaning before decision-making is carried out”. He concedes that this may delay decision-making.

Sudhir and Abhinandan also discuss the formation and operation of the oversight board, reconciling local law with Facebook policies, and much more.


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