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A user displays the Facebook Interface. The company has appointed an independent oversight board that includes Kenyan human rights activist. Photo/Time

Kenyan human rights activist & lawyer Maina Kiai has been appointed to Facebook’s oversight board as one of three African representatives making him one of the twenty people who can overrule Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook has found itself in a myriad of storms that it seemed unable to quell mostly relating to illegal mining of data for political reasons and failure to rein in on terrorism & human rights abuse related content on the platform.

Kiai, the Co-founder of Inform Action Kenya and Director of Global Alliances and Partnerships at Human Rights Watch (HRW) will be part of a team tasked with making decisions on content to be pulled down from Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook’s oversight board comprises of 20 members, four co-chairs, and 16 board members, drawn from across the world. The technology company has opted for professionals from the legal, journalism, academic, and human rights fields, disciplines directly related to the problems that the company has been facing.

Late last year and into early this year, Facebook selected the four co-chairs of the board, and for much of 2020, those co-chairs have worked with the company to select the other 16 members. The 20 members and Facebook will choose another 20, and from then on new members will be selected without Facebook’s participation.

“The board will review whether the 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 company said in a statement

“The oversight board represents a new model of content moderation for Facebook and Instagram and today, we are proud to announce our initial members,” said a statement from Facebook.

It is instructive to note that the board will be independent of Facebook and will make decisions without having to worry about executives running interference.

“ Many of us have been publicly critical of how the company has handled content issues in the past.”Members are independently contracted to the board. They are not Facebook employees and cannot be removed by Facebook.

“Our financial independence is also guaranteed by the establishment of a USD130 million (Sh13 billion) trust fund that is completely independent of Facebook, which will fund our operations and cannot be revoked,” the company added in its statement.

Part of the board’s mandate will be hearing cases filed by users protesting pulling down of their content.

The board will also listen to appeals from users lobbying for content removal.

“Users who do not agree with the result of a content appeal to Facebook can refer their case to the board by following guidelines that will accompany the response from Facebook.”

Below is a full list of members appointed to the Facebook Oversight Board

  • Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei, human rights advocate at the Open Society Initiative for West Africa
  • Evelyn Aswad, University of Oklahoma College of Law professor who formerly served as a senior U.S. State Department lawyer
  • Endy Bayuni, a journalist who twice served as the editor-in-chief of the Jakarta Post
  • Catalina Botero-Marino, Facebook Oversight Board co-chair, dean of the Universidad de los Andes Faculty of Law
  • Katherine Chen, a communications scholar at the National Chengchi University and former national communications regulator in Taiwan
  • Nighat Dad, digital rights advocate who received the Human Rights Tulip Award
  • Jamal Greene, Facebook Oversight Board co-chair, Columbia Law professor
  • Pamela Karlan, Stanford Law professor and United States Supreme Court advocate
  • Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Prize laureate named as one of “History’s Most Rebellious Women” by Time
  • Maina Kiai, director of Human Rights Watch’s Global Alliances and Partnerships program
  • Sudhir Krishnaswamy, vice-chancellor of the National Law School of India University
  • Ronaldo Lemos, technology, intellectual property and media lawyer who teaches law at Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro
  • Michael McConnell, Facebook Oversight Board co-chair, Stanford Law professor who previously served as a federal circuit judge
  • Julie Owono, digital rights and anti-censorship advocate who leads Internet Sans Frontieres
  • Emi Palmor, former director-general of the Israeli Ministry of Justice
  • Alan Rusbridger, former editor-in-chief of The Guardian
  • Andras Sajo, a former judge and vice president of the European Court of Human Rights
  • John Samples helps lead a libertarian think tank and writes extensively on social media and speech regulation
  • Nicolas Suzor, Queensland University of Technology Law School professor
  • Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Facebook Oversight Board co-chair, former Prime Minister of Denmark

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