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Facebook announces content oversight board as Zuckerberg responds to lobbying crisis

Image: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes the keynote speech
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes the keynote speech at F8, theFacebook's developer conference, Tuesday, May 1, 2018, in San Jose, Calif. -
Marcio Jose Sanchez AP file
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Facebook announced on Thursday that it will create an independent governing body to moderate content on the platform, marking a significant change in how the company handles editorial decisions.

The body, first discussed on a call with reporters on Thursday, will aim to "uphold the principle of giving people a voice while also recognizing the reality of keeping people safe" and decide which content is allowed on the platform under the company's terms of service, according to a blog post from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The board will launch in the beginning of 2019 after the company decides who will be a part of the new governing body and the process through which they will be petitioned, Zuckerberg wrote.

"Just as our board of directors is accountable to our shareholders, this body would be focused only on our community," Zuckerberg wrote.

Facebook has recently begun to take a more active role in policing content and banned some pages, including those of far-right website Infowars and its founder, Alex Jones. Websites like Reddit and Wikipedia have operated for years on volunteer outside moderator systems that debate, set rules around and remove unacceptable or dangerous content. It is not clear if the governing body would be comprised of volunteers or paid employees.

Zuckerberg announced the governing body in a phone call that quickly turned away from the company's announcement and toward a lengthy report from The New York Times that revealed the company paid Definers Public Affairs, a Republican opposition research firm, to discredit Facebook opponents — including linking a group to liberal philanthropist George Soros.

During the call with reporters, Zuckerberg was barraged with questions about the company's role in the campaign against Democratic activist groups. Zuckerberg said he was unaware of Facebook's relationship with the lobbying firm until it was outlined in by the Times on Wednesday.

Zuckerberg did not say who was responsible for the relationship with Definers but said that the company will re-evaluate the hiring of outside lobbying firms in Washington, D.C.

"I understand that a lot of D.C.-type firms might do this kind of work," said Zuckerberg. "When i learned about it I decided that we don't want to be doing it."