Meta's Oversight Board made just 53 decisions in 2023

The board says it wants to weigh in on “demoted content” on Facebook and Instagram.

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The Oversight Board has published its latest annual report looking at its influence on Meta and ability to shift the policies that govern Facebook and Instagram. The board says that in 2023 it received 398,597 appeals, the vast majority of which came from Facebook users. But it took on only a tiny fraction of those cases, issuing a total of 53 decisions.

The board suggests, however, that the cases it selects can have an outsize impact on Meta’s users. For example, it credits its work for influencing improvements to Meta’s strike system and the “account status” feature that helps users check if their posts have violated any of the company’s rules.

Sussing out the board’s overall influence, though, is more complicated. The group says that between January of 2021 and May of 2024, it has sent a total of 266 recommendations to Meta. Of those, the company has fully or partially implemented 75, and reported “progress” on 81. The rest have been declined, “omitted or reframed,” or else Meta has claimed some level of implementation but hasn’t offered proof to the board. (There are five recommendations currently awaiting a response.) Those numbers raise some questions about how much Meta is willing to change in response to the board it created.

The Oversight Board's tally of how Meta has responded to its recommendations,
The Oversight Board's tally of how Meta has responded to its recommendations, (Oversight Board)

Notably, the report has no criticism for Meta and offers no analysis of Meta’s efforts (or lack thereof) to comply with its recommendations. The report calls out a case in which it recommended that Meta suspend the former prime minister of Cambodia for six months, noting that it overturned the company’s decision to leave up a video that could have incited violence. But the report makes no mention of the fact that Meta declined to suspend the former prime minister’s account and declined to further clarify its rules for public figures.

The report also hints at thorny topics the board may take on in the coming months. It mentions that it wants to look at content “demotion,” or what some Facebook and Instagram users may call “shadowbans” (the term is a loaded one for Meta, which has repeatedly denied that its algorithms intentionally punish users for no reason). “One area we are interested in exploring is demoted content, where a platform limits a post’s visibility without telling the user,” the Oversight Board writes.

For now, it’s not clear exactly how the group could tackle the issue. The board’s purview currently allows it to weigh in on specific pieces of content that Meta has removed or left up after a user appeal. But it’s possible the board could find another way into the issue. A spokesperson for the Oversight Board notes that the group expressed concern about demoted content in its opinion on content related to the Israel-Hamas war. “This is something the board would like to further explore as Meta’s decisions around demotion are pretty opaque,” the spokesperson said.