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Facebook's new independent appeal process ambition revealed by Mark Zuckerberg

By Stephen Lepitak | -

May 25, 2018 | 6 min read

Mark Zuckerberg has revealed that he plans to implement a new appeals process for those who see their messages censored on Facebook.

Mark & Maurice

Mark Zuckerberg and Maurice Levy

On the eve of Europe's GDPR regulation coming into force yesterday (24 May), Zuckerberg was in Paris speaking to Publicis Groupe chairman Maurice Levy at the company’s technology conference VivaTech, where he discussed privacy issues on the platform.

He said that Facebook had been working to ensure that it was GDPR compliant in Europe and that he hoped to ensure the same was true for the platform all around the world with the same controls being made available consistently to all users in the coming weeks.

Of the recently implemented Clear History feature which allows users to scrub their pasts from Facebook, Zuckerberg warned that the browsing data from each user was used to enrich the experience of the platform, and without that data the experience would likely be poorer.

“We always give people control over how they want their data to be used, but the idea is that, in things like ranking your newsfeed to make it better or showing better ads, people want us to use data in a way that that they are comfortable with in order to make these services better,” he explained before comparing the feature to cookies within an internet browser.

“I think that is true on Facebook too. You should be able to go back and clear all of the browsing history about how you’ve clicked on things and newsfeed and the different things you have interacted with on the service.

"But if you want to clear your history then newsfeed ranking may get worse for you as it has to go and relearn your habits and the ads that you see may be less interesting.”

Zuckerberg argued that advertising was the right business model for the company and that ads' relevance was critical for the user. “If people are going to see ads, they want them to be relevant and that means that if you’re using our system and you are telling us you’re interesting in things, then you are going to want to see ads about those things. That’s the point of this, giving people control so that they can manage it the way they want.”

He said that GDPR would only mean new elements were added to Facebook but that it wouldn’t change the philosophy of Facebook from when it began and that it wasn’t “a massive departure” for the platform. But he also admitted that there was “a huge amount of responsibility” when it came to the unwanted content it hosted such as hate speech.

“We need to be more proactive in building AI tools and going out and finding this content,” he conceded, adding that another area he believed that was important was election integrity.

“In 2016, we were slow to identify the Russian interference in the US election, we were looking for more traditional types of cyber attacks, such as phishing or malware, and we found those, but were weren’t prepared for the misinformation operations that the Russians were doing that we are now aware of. There was a moment after that where we decided we would invest to be more prepared for that and since then there have been a number of elections where we have been more prepared…

“We are going to make it much harder for the Russians or anybody else to try to interfere in elections like they have tried to do in the past.”

On the role of AI, he spoke about the need to think about governance but the problem of differing opinions across different cultures from users all around the world around what content was appropriate on the platform, or not.

“One of the ideas I would like to eventually get to would be a set of content principles that are more informed by people from all around the world, over us sitting in an office in California and trying to set these rules for people around the world,” he added, revealing that he had met with academics internationally to attempt to learn more about the issue.

“Hopefully in the coming six months or year I will come up with some models of community-led governance. One example of this is around having an appeals process,” he continued. Currently the company itself decides whether to remove content, such as hate speech, which has drawn criticism when a piece of content is seemingly removed, without any means of appeal.

“We are building a system where people can post appeals on content and hopefully where I would like to get to, is something like the Supreme Court of a hierarchical court that is more independent that is made up of people who maybe aren’t employed by Facebook but have some understanding of what the policies are and the principles that we are trying to have for the community.

"So that way if someone in the community disagrees with the decision and the appeal, they can appeal to this broader group who will make decisions that are binding."

The full interview with Levy, which included Zuckerberg’s advice for philanthropes, can be viewed above from 8:10:00.

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