Facebook is under increasing pressure regarding its approach to content moderation. On the Lawfare blog, Hilary Hurd explored how international law might provide a solution.
But there is a potential middle course in the diverging paths to principle and profit. Through the establishment of its new Oversight Board, Facebook could bolster its commitment to free expression globally by requiring governments to justify their take-down requests in keeping with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 specifically lays out three conditions for when—and under what circumstances—governments can restrict speech. By insisting governments frame their take-down requests in keeping with Article 19’s requirements before removing any content, Facebook would honor its stated goal of promoting free expression globally while shifting the burden to governments to justify their actions. The Oversight Board could in turn make this commitment credible by promising to restore any content removed because of a government take-down request, unless the government adhered to Article 19’s formal steps.