Members of Meta’s Oversight Board weighed in on Elon Musk’s calamitous first week as Twitter CEO Friday, offering their competitor some tactical advice, and even leaving open the possibilities of one day extending its Supreme Court-like judicial services to his platform.
Speaking at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal representatives from The Oversight Board said Musk should learn some lessons from Mark Zuckerberg’s contentious content moderation history and “start with the principle of not doing harm,” Axios notes.
“As Meta found out, when you move fast you sometimes break things,” Oversight Board Head of Communications Dex Hunter-Torricke said.
“You can’t piss off the advertisers,” Rusbridger said. The former Guardian editor went on to urge stability and consistency when it comes to enforcing rules.
Musk has raised alarm bells among tech advocacy groups by repeatedly signaling an interest in loosening Twitter’s speech policies and reinstating previously banned accounts. Since first expressing interest in acquiring the company, Musk repeatedly reiterated and amplified conservative complaints that their viewpoints are being silenced via left-learning social media companies. Last month, likely sensing growing discomfort among Twitter’s chief revenues streams, Musk issued a sort of declaration to “advertisers” assuring them Twitter would not become a “free-for-all hellscape” under his ownership.
The Oversight Board is an independent organization funded by Meta, formed for the purposes of reviewing users’ appeals to the company’s content decisions. Since its founding in 2018, The Oversight Board has weighed in on several high profile cases, with the most notable being its decision to uphold a January 2021 ban on former president Donald Trump’s account. Though the Oversight Board says its decisions are binding, some have called into question the extent of the organization’s independence and effectiveness.
The Oversight Board’s words of wisdom come days after Musk said he was interested in forming his own counsel to weigh-in on content moderation decisions at Twitter. In a tweet, the new CEO said Twitter would form a “content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints.” Musk said he would refrain from making any major content decisions or account reinstatements (looking at you Donny) until that council convenes.
That idea appeared to resonate with Rusbridger who spoke approvingly of the council, but expressed skepticism over whether or not Musk would actually deliver.
“It took Mark Zuckerberg around 15 years to realise he shouldn’t have untrammelled [sic] power over the speech of billions,” Rusbridger said in a statement following the event. “It took Elon Musk about three days. But does he mean it?”
Who exactly would make up said council remains uncertain, however, Hunter-Torrick left open the possibility of an Oversight Board-Twitter partnership. Here it’s worth noting that though the Oversight Board was intended with Facebook in mind, Meta executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested it could deliberate on content cases for other companies as well.
“We expect the board will only hear a small number of cases at first, but over time we hope it will expand its scope and potentially include more companies across the industry as well,” Zuckerberg said of the Oversight Board’s purview back in 2019.
So, while it seems unlikely, it’s not impossible the very same Oversight Board offering Musk advice could one day weigh in on Twitter’s thorniest content issues. Whether or not that’s a good thing probably depends on whether or not you think it’s a great idea to have a Meta bank rolled organization make content proclamations across multiple avenues of online speech.