Forming an “election commission” to oversee a fair and smooth election process, until recently, used to be something exclusively reserved for nation states, but now Facebook is reported to be meddling in that domain, at least semantics-wise.
The New York Times reported that the “commission” could be coming this fall, just in time to affect the way US midterm election campaigns are carried out on the giant platform.
The way these announcements are interpreted currently is that the “election commission” will play a role similar to that the Oversight Board already has in dealing with content censorship on Facebook, only clearly focused on election related content.
The Board is referred to as independent, brings together a number of academics and experts, and is ultimately seen by critics as another way for Facebook to wash its hand off the responsibility in how diverse politically and ideologically sensitive content is treated and “moderated.” Another notorious way is Facebook’s third party “fact checkers.”
Facebook is not commenting for the moment, but observers say that the Board might be proving useful in letting Facebook breathe more easily on those issues of censorship it is under pressure for, and that the company might hope the “election commission” will pull the same trick on behalf of the juggernaut, and paint its “moderation” rules as a matter of policy rather than politics, reports say.
The New York Times writes that putting together this elections-savvy group is now in the works with no official confirmation, while its official role would be to offer advice on election issues expected to be “thorny.” The scope would not pertain only to the US but be global, anonymous people have shared with the newspaper.
Some of the issues the “election commission” could find itself ruling on have to do with perennial controversies like political ads and political “misinformation” – it’s clear why Facebook might be considering putting these hot potatoes into the hands of what would in effect be a group of third party “experts.”
Another way to say this is that Facebook will look to bypass criticism by outsourcing these decisions, after coming under criticism from both sides of the isle in the US, and in many places worldwide.