May 7: National Law School of India University vice chancellor Sudhir Krishnaswamy is among the first 20 members of the Oversight Board announced by Facebook on Wednesday to handle content takedown disputes on the platform.

As reported by The Economic Times, born in 1975 in Bengaluru, Krishnaswamy is a BA LLB graduate from the National Law School of India University and also a Rhodes Scholar who obtained his D. Phil from the University of Oxford. 

Last year, Sudhir Krishnaswamy became the youngest vice-chancellor of the National Law School of India University in Bengaluru. An expert on India’s constitutional law and a civil society activist, he’s previously worked in the PM’s Committee on Infrastructure and the Kasturirangan Committee on Governance of Bangalore. He is also the co-founder of the Centre for Law and Policy Research (CLPR).

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg had first spoken about the board in late 2018. 

As reported by The Mint, the board will function over and above Facebook’s current content moderation systems. It will come into play once the company’s artificial intelligence algorithms and human moderators have acted on a piece of content. Its decisions will be binding and Facebook has publicly committed that it will abide by the board’s rulings. The board can overturn Facebook’s decisions and will try to take cases that affect a wide number of people. It will be looking at disputes about posts, pages, profiles, groups and even advertisements. Its decisions will influence Facebook’s overall content policies as well.

Facebook has set up a $130 million trust to provide for the Oversight Board’s expenses. However, the board will operate independent of the social media company. The members of the board have been picked from around the world and contract with it directly, and cannot be removed by Facebook. The trust itself cannot be revoked either. The new board will also have to select 20 more members and will appoint five-member panels to make decisions on cases taken up by the board. Facebook has the power to send a “limited” number of cases to the board, which it doesn’t have the power to ignore.

The four co-chairs of the board are former Denmark prime minister Helle Thorning- Schmidt, former US federal circuit judge Michael McConnell, Columbia Law School professor Jamal Greene and Catalina Botero-Marino, former special rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States.

Anyone can approach the board, of which Krishnaswamy is a member. So, both Facebook and its users can submit cases. Users can submit disputes on a separate consumer-facing website, but the board expects many cases to be put in front of it. It will set up panels to decide the cases it hears and try to take up those that impact a wide number of reported issues. Even if a case is not directly addressed doesn’t mean it won’t be addressed through a decision on another one.

The board will not be involved in cases concerning government takedown requests. For those, Facebook will continue to adhere to a country’s laws. That said, the decisions of the board will impact Facebook’s overall content sharing policies. This means things such as political advertisements can be affected by the board’s decisions. The board will only look at content shared on Instagram and Facebook for now, but the social media company did not rule out the possibility of the board operating over its other platforms in future.

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