Human rights lawyer and Program Manager at the Open Society Initiative for West Africa from Ghana, Senegal and South Africa Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei has been appointed as Board Member to the newly created Facebook and Instagram oversight board.
The Oversight Board will review certain content decisions by Facebook and Instagram and make binding decisions based on respect for freedom of expression and human rights.
Afia joins two other Africans: Julie Owono, a digital rights advocate and Executive Director of Internet Sans Frontières from Cameroon and Maina Kiai, a human rights activist and Director of Human Rights Watch’s Global Alliances and Partnerships program from Kenya, on the 20-member Oversight Board.
The Oversight Board will tackle increasingly complex and contentious debates about what types of content should and should not be permitted on Facebook and Instagram and who should decide. The Board will prioritize cases that potentially impact many users, are of critical importance to public discourse, or raise questions about Facebook’s policies.
Decisions made by the Board must be implemented by Facebook, as long as they do not violate the law. Oversight Board Members are independent from the company, funded by an independent trust and cannot be removed by Facebook based on their decisions.
Reacting to the appointment Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei said “the very act of creating this Board shows Facebook has taken the criticism leveled against it seriously and I hope my membership can help address some of these criticisms. I am particularly focused on the Board’s role in improving transparency and accountability, and creating an appeal process where people can bring their content issues. I feel strongly that the Board needs to be truly representative, not just in terms of geography, but age, subject matter and breadth of issues covered as well.”
Afia will work in collaboration with 19 other Members who speak over 27 languages and have diverse professional, cultural, political, and religious backgrounds and viewpoints.
Over time the Board will grow to around 40 Members. While no one can claim to represent everyone, Members are confident that the global composition will underpin, strengthen and guide decision-making.
The Board was designed with transparency in mind
All decisions will be made public, and Facebook must respond publicly to them. All Board decisions will be published on its website, while protecting the identity and privacy of those involved. Additionally, the Board will issue a public annual report on its work to evaluate how the Board is fulfilling its purpose and whether Members believe Facebook is living up to its commitments.
Members are independent from Facebook
Members contract directly with the Oversight Board, are not Facebook employees and cannot be removed by Facebook. Members will serve for a maximum of three 3-year terms and case panels will be confidential and assigned at random; no Member can choose the panel they sit on, and all opinions will be anonymous. The Board’s financial independence is also guaranteed by the establishment of a $130 million trust fund that is completely independent of Facebook, which will fund its operations and cannot be revoked.
The Oversight Board is focused on addressing some of the most significant content moderation decisions on Facebook and Instagram that are referred by both users and Facebook
The Oversight Board will begin hearing cases in the coming months. Initially, users will be able to appeal to the Board in cases where Facebook has removed their content. Over the following months, the Board will also be able to review appeals from users who want Facebook to remove content, including advertising. The Board will not be able to make decisions on all of the many thousands of appeals from users that it anticipates receiving, but it will prioritize cases that potentially impact many users, are of critical importance to public discourse or that raise questions about Facebook’s policies.
About Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei
Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei is the Program Manager at the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, where she focuses on human rights, women’s rights, criminal justice, access to information and media freedom issues, and previously worked at Save the Children and the U.S. Agency for International Development
Asare-Kyei is a human rights lawyer and development professional with extensive experience in strategy development, program design, grant management, research and stakeholder engagement in Southern, Western and Central Africa.
Of Ghanaian and South African citizenship, she has a varied background in supporting and developing transformational social programs and advocacy strategies through the provision of technical advice and input into policy and programming of civil society organizations on issues like access to information, freedom of expression, human rights and substantive justice, especially as they relate to the inclusion, equality of opportunity and empowerment of vulnerable and under-represented groups such as women, children, persons with disabilities and LGBTIQs.
Asare-Kyei has also worked for a number of international development and philanthropic organizations in different capacities in Africa.
She is passionate about Africa, its development and has a working knowledge of African regional mechanisms and institutions. She is a graduate of the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, South Africa. Her research interests include women, children and disability rights, critical race feminism and socioeconomic rights of the poor.