Users of Facebook and Instagram submitted more than one million appeals last year to the group set up by the social media platforms’ parent company Meta.
The Oversight Board, which examines decisions to remove content on the platforms, has published its first annual report. It covers the period from October 2020 to the end of 2021.
The board said that more than 80% of appeals to restore content concerned posts which supposedly violated Meta’s rules on bullying, hate speech, or violence and incitement.
The body issued decisions with full, public explanations on 20 significant cases in 2021. The issues involved ranged from hate speech to COVID-19, and the board overturned Meta’s decisions 14 times.
Trump decision backed
It overturned the removal of Instagram post by a user in Brazil that was aimed at raising awareness of breast cancer, and included images of female breasts. The post was removed by an automated system that enforces standards on adult nudity
The board also reversed a decision to remove a post that criticised a French public-health agency for not authorising a drug as a treatment for COVID-19, and claimed that the drug was a “cure”.
“The fact that the post was addressed to public policy rather than recommending treatments to individuals, and that the drugs in question were not available in France without a prescription, were relevant considerations,” it said.
It upheld Meta’s decision, however, to suspend former US president Donald Trump, though it criticised the indefinite nature of the ban.
‘Wider questions’ on accuracy
It said that it asked Meta more than 300 questions as part of our first 20 cases, and that in many cases, its work resulted in a voluntary decision by the company to reverse its content-moderation decisions.
The board shortlisted 130 cases for consideration during the period. Of these cases, Meta identified 51 occasions on which its original decision was incorrect.
“This high error rate raises wider questions both about the accuracy of Meta’s content moderation, and the appeals process Meta applies before cases reach the board,” the annual report said.