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Facebook is reportedly mulling a commission to advise on elections

Facebook is considering forming a commission to advise on thorny issues related to global referendums, according to a report Wednesday from The New York Times. The firm has begun to approach academics and program experts, who The Times says could potentially weigh in on issues roam from political ads to election misinformation. What’s more, it is not just US elections where a commission could find itself weighing complicated election issues; the commission would also likely have a mandate to weigh in on closely watched elections in Hungary, Germany, Brazil and the Philippines.

Facebook declined to comment.

On its face, human rights committee chimes a lot like Facebook’s Oversight Board, an independent body of correspondents, professors and activists often described as a “Supreme Court” that’s have the responsibility reviewing Facebook’s policies. The Oversight Board is perhaps best known for upholding Facebook’s decision to ban Donald Trump, though since its organisation last year it has also agreed to weigh in on doxing; hate speech; how legislators at large should be dealt with; content moderation in coup-torn Myanmar; moderation by algorithms; and the appropriate treatment of parody content.

But though the makeup of the election commission sounds like the Oversight Board — and could similarly cause Facebook side-step ownership of contentious decisions — there could be an important difference, according to The Times. Whereas the Oversight Board weighs in on decisions that Facebook has already constructed( much like the Supreme Court considers rivalry court rulings ), the election commission would have the latitude to proactively offer advice, even on matters where Facebook had not yet taken a public stance.

If Facebook goes ahead with outsourcing election-related decisions to a consultative committee, it would be a departure from its previous attempts to counter election misinformation, which have been largely reactive, and almost always imperfect. Even after a temporary ban on political ads ahead of the 2020 US election, some ads were still showing as active in Facebook’s ad library. Facebook last year also endeavored to label ads from politically connected pamphlets, and earlier this year moved to show users little political content altogether.

Though Facebook supposedly hopes to launch the commission ahead of the 2022 midterm ballots, The Times also describes the outreach as preliminary, with no guarantee that Facebook will move forward on this.

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