Despite boasting about its purported diversity and inclusivity, the vast majority of Facebook’s “independent oversight board” – a body that has the authority to allow or remove content from the social media platform – have been found to have ties to hedge fund manager and liberal philanthropist George Soros, a new report says.
According to the report by conservative investigative journalism portal Real Clear Investigations, 18 of the board’s 20 members either collaborated with or have known ties to civic groups that have received funding from Soros’ Open Society Foundations, an international grantmaking network that primarily focuses on liberal and progressive goals and causes such as racial equality.
This contradicts earlier claims by the group, who, in a joint column published in the New York Times, noted that their members include people from different professional, cultural and religious backgrounds, as well as political viewpoints.
This claim has been reinforced by liberal mainstream media, which repeatedly touted the board’s “ideologically and geographically diverse” members, whose political leanings “crisscrossed across the ideological spectrum.”
The board has four co-chairs, all of whom were selected directly by Facebook through a global consultation process.
One of the board’s four co-chairs, Jamal Greene, is a law school professor at Columbia University. A staunch liberal, Greene is also a former aide to California Senator Kamala Harris, a known critic of the Trump administration.
Greene, as confirmed by Thomas Hughes, the director of the oversight board, shares the co-chair title with Denmark’s former Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, as well as U.S. law professor Michael McConnell, and Catalina Botero Marino, a former special rapporteur for freedom of expression at the Organization of American States.
Hughes, in an earlier interview, noted that the four co-chairs – in combination with Facebook – chose the next 16 members of the board.
These members include Evelyn Aswad, a U.S. law professor who wrote a paper advocating the alignment of corporate speech codes with international human rights laws; Kenyan lawyer and human rights activist Maina Kiai, a former United Nations Special Rapporteur and the current director of the Human Rights Watch’s Alliances and Partnerships Initiative; Yemeni journalist and human rights activist Tawakkol Karman, who won a Nobel peace prize for promoting nonviolent change during the Arab Spring; law professors Sudhir Krishnaswamy and Pamela Karlan who both advocated for gay rights; and journalist Alan Rusbridger, who once acted as the editor-in-chief of the liberal publication The Guardian.
According to Hughes, the board will continue to appoint members until it hits its full complement of 40, after which Facebook will drop out of the process and leave the board to be fully in charge of its own composition.
“Our roster includes three former judges, six former or current journalists, and other leaders with backgrounds from civil society, academia and public service,” Hughes said, adding that while the members represent “a diverse collection of backgrounds and beliefs,” they all have a “deep commitment to advancing human rights and freedom of expression.”
The board, which was first proposed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2018, will arbitrate difficult decisions about content moderation on the platform, such as those involving hate speech, civil rights and discrimination.
“The Board will review whether content is consistent with Facebook and Instagram’s policies and values, as well as a commitment to upholding freedom of expression within the framework of international norms of human rights,” the board said in its website.
According to the board, they will make decisions based on the framework of human rights and without regard to Facebook’s “economic, political or reputational interests.”
“Facebook must implement our decisions unless implementation could violate the law,” the board said.
The Oversight Board will begin to hear cases in the next few months and will prioritize cases that could impact many users, are important to public discourse or raise questions about Facebook’s policies. (Related: Trump slams Twitter, signs order for new Internet, social media regulations.)
A purported bias against conservatives is a major talking point for the Republican party – a point that Ohio Representative Jim Jordan made clear during last week’s anti-trust hearing, where he noted that “Big Tech is out to get conservatives.”
“That’s not a suspicion, that’s not a hunch. That’s a fact,” Jordan said as he read out examples of suspected behavior from the social media platform, which included Facebook’s banning of pro-life ads in 2018, the removal of Trump campaign posts and the censoring of conservative views.
Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, for his part, debated with Zuckerberg over the issue of free speech during the hearing, with the Wisconsin Republican challenging Facebook’s head honcho to prove that his platform – which has over 2.6 billion monthly active users – does not discriminate against or suppress conservative views.
“The way the net was put together, in the eyes of Congress, is that everybody should be able to speak their mind,” Sensenbrenner said.
Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, meanwhile, has asked the Justice Department to investigate Zuckerberg for allegedly making false statements by repeatedly and categorically denying any bias against conservative speech and politics on Facebook.
In a letter addressed to Attorney General William Barr, Gaetz said that Zuckerberg made false statements to Congress when asked about Facebook’s policies when it comes to content moderation.
The incident Gaetz referred to happened two years ago.
“On both occasions, members of Congress asked Mr. Zuckerberg about allegations that Facebook censored and suppressed content supportive of President Donald Trump and other conservatives,” Gaetz said in his letter, adding that aside from “repeatedly and categorically” denying any bias against conservatives, Zuckerberg also dismissed the suggestion that Facebook exercises any form of editorial manipulation when it comes to content posted on their platform.
This, Gaetz said, is contradicted by reports from the right-wing group Project Veritas, which allegedly contain “ample evidence” that Facebook engages in “bias and manipulation” against conservative speech.