A recent decision by Meta’s Oversight Board highlights the ongoing issue of Facebook’s role as a platform for dangerous election rhetoric. The Board overturned Meta’s initial stance to keep a video publicly available, which was posted in January and called for insurrectionist actions in Brazil following the inauguration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
President Lula assumed office on January 1st, and shortly after, a user uploaded a video featuring a prominent Brazilian general and supporter of former President Jair Bolsonaro, urging people to “hit the streets” and “go to the National Congress…[and the] Supreme Court.” The video included Portuguese text overlaid, encouraging people to gather in Brasília, storm the city, and lay siege to the three powers—Congress, Supreme Court, and the presidential offices—located in Three Powers Plaza, the heart of the Brazilian capital.
Despite Meta’s previous recognition of the risk of civil unrest and election-related tensions in Brazil, which led to designating the country as a “Temporary High-Risk Location” from September 2022 to late February 2023, the video was not initially found to be in violation of Meta’s policies when a user reported it. Even after an appeal, a second moderator agreed with the decision. Seven moderators in total reviewed reports from four individuals between January 3rd and 4th, yet none identified any issues with the video. The accompanying caption of the video further called for the “besieging” of Brazil’s Congress as a last-ditch effort. Five days after the video was posted on Facebook, hundreds of protesters broke into the three governmental buildings, causing destruction and assaulting police officers.
Meta referred to the riots as a “violating event” the following day and claimed to have been removing content that called for armed actions or forcible invasions of Congress, the Presidential palace, and other federal buildings. However, the video remained on Facebook until January 20th, when Meta finally removed the post after the Oversight Board decided to review it. According to Meta’s own guidelines, moderators should have categorized the post as a violation, as it called for forced entry into a high-risk location during a temporary high-risk period, as was the case in Brazil at the time. Meta acknowledged the presence of the video, featuring a military official calling for insurrection, as an “error.”
The Oversight Board expressed deep concern over Meta’s repeated determination that the video did not violate its policies. It recommended that Meta develop a comprehensive framework for assessing its efforts in maintaining election integrity. This framework should include the creation and sharing of metrics that measure the success of Meta’s election integrity initiatives, including content policy enforcement and approaches to advertisements. Additionally, the Board called on the company to expand its protocols for evaluating whether content poses harm during high-risk events.
Established in 2020, the Oversight Board operates as an independently funded entity that allows individuals to appeal decisions regarding the visibility of content on Facebook and Instagram. It has the authority to permit or remove content from the platforms, providing detailed explanations for each decision. Currently consisting of 22 members (expected to eventually reach 40), the Board includes notable figures such as Nighat Dad, the founder of the Digital Rights Foundation, and Ronaldo Lemos, a professor at Rio De Janeiro State University’s Law School.
Meta has become a hub for right-wing conspiracy theorists and organizers, with over 650,000 posts disputing Joe Biden’s victory shared on Facebook between the 2020 US Election Day and the January 6th, 2021 insurrection. Although the social media platform had implemented safety features in response to misinformation during the 2016 election, it quietly rolled back many of these safeguards in preparation for the 2022 midterms and Brazil’s general election.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Meta, Oversight Board, Brazilian pro-insurrection video
What is the Oversight Board’s criticism of Meta regarding the Brazilian pro-insurrection video?
The Oversight Board criticized Meta for refusing to take down the Brazilian pro-insurrection video. They expressed concern over Meta’s moderators repeatedly finding the video to be in compliance with their policies, despite its call for insurrectionist actions in Brazil. The Board recommended that Meta develop a framework for evaluating election integrity efforts and expand their protocols for assessing content that may cause harm during high-risk events.
What actions did Meta take regarding the Brazilian pro-insurrection video?
Meta initially did not consider the Brazilian pro-insurrection video to be in violation of their policies. Even after acknowledging the risk of civil unrest and election-related tensions in Brazil, the video remained on Facebook until the Oversight Board intervened. Meta removed the video only after the Board decided to review it and categorized it as an “error” to have allowed it to remain on the platform.
How did Meta’s policies contribute to the spread of dangerous election rhetoric?
Meta’s platform, including Facebook, has been criticized for serving as a platform for dangerous election rhetoric. Despite enacting safety features after the 2016 election misinformation, Meta quietly rolled back many safeguards leading up to the 2022 midterms and Brazil’s general election. This allowed right-wing conspiracy theorists and organizers to use the platform, leading to the sharing of thousands of posts disputing Joe Biden’s victory and, in this case, the promotion of a pro-insurrection video.
What is the role of the Oversight Board?
The Oversight Board operates as an independently funded entity that allows individuals to appeal content visibility decisions on Facebook and Instagram. It has the authority to permit or remove content from the platforms and provides detailed explanations for each decision. The Board consists of members, including experts in various fields, who review and assess content-related issues to ensure transparency and accountability.
What are the recommendations made by the Oversight Board to Meta?
The Oversight Board recommended that Meta develop a comprehensive framework for evaluating its election integrity efforts. This includes creating and sharing metrics to measure the success of election integrity initiatives and content policy enforcement. They also called for the expansion of protocols to assess the potential harm caused by content during high-risk events. These recommendations aim to improve Meta’s approach to maintaining election integrity and ensuring the safety of its platform users.