Taiwanese scholar among appointees to new Facebook oversight board

National Chengchi University Professor Katherine Chen (陳憶寧)(CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — National Chengchi University Professor Katherine Chen (陳憶寧) was one of 20 people named Wednesday to Facebook’s newly-established Oversight Board, which will be tasked with deciding what types of content the social media giant allows on its platforms.

In a statement, the independent board said it will hear appeals from Facebook and Instagram users and questions from Facebook itself, and will issue public and binding decisions based on the company’s policies, international human rights norms and the impact on users and society.

While the board will eventually grow to 40 members, the 20 announced Wednesday “speak over 27 languages and represent diverse professional, cultural, political and religious backgrounds and viewpoints,” the statement said.

Chen, one of three members selected from the Asia-Pacific region, is a professor at National Chengchi University’s College of Communications, with research specialties in social media, mobile news and privacy. She was a member of Taiwan’s National Communications Commission (NCC) from 2014-2018.

In a Facebook post, Chen wrote that she hopes the board “is able to improve fairness in its content decisions, protect freedom of expression, and make the platform a safer place for all users.”

“Having worked as a regulator at the National Communications Commission, I believe I bring valuable experience in making fair, impartial, objective and detailed judgments,” she said.

Facebook, the world’s largest social media company, has struggled in recent years to formulate content moderation policies which effectively balance free speech rights with restrictions on hate speech and disinformation.

With the establishment of an independent oversight board, the company said it hopes to fundamentally change “the way some of the most difficult decisions around content on our platforms will be made.”

According to its bylaws, the oversight body will be financed by an independent trust fund. Its members will serve a maximum of three three-year terms, and cannot be removed by Facebook.

Other members of the board include Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman, former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and Alan Rusbridger, former editor-in-chief of The Guardian.

The board said it expects to start hearing cases later this year.