Wednesday, we learned the names of the board members. It’s an impressive bunch who won’t necessarily feel beholden to the company whose processes they will be second-guessing. They won’t be quitting their day jobs—Facebook sees this as a part-time job. But they expect their participation to make a difference in the world.“This is a historic moment,” says Kate Klonick, a law professor who has been closely following the creation of the board. “This is the first time a private transnational company had voluntarily assigned a part of its policies to an external body like this.”
15 Months of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook
Getting to this point has been laborious, and this step is months past the original timetable . Late last year and into early this year, Facebook selected the four co-chairs of the board, and for much of 2020, those co-chairs have worked with the company to select the other 16 members. (These 20 members and Facebook will choose another 20, and from then on new members will be selected without Facebook’s participation.) The co-chairs give a good indication of what kind of people Facebook wants on the board: serious people of accomplishment with backgrounds in governance and law. (Three of the four are attorneys.)
• Jamal Greene is a law professor at Columbia University, specializing in constitutional law. He clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens and in 2019 served as an aide to Senator Kamala Harris during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. His brother is the rapper Talib Kweli. (There are no rappers on the board itself.)• Michael McConnell is a former federal judge who now is at Stanford Law School and the Hoover Institution. A staunch conservative, he is also of counsel to Wilson Sonsini, the law firm representing many Silicon Valley elite tech firms.
Also on Friday, Business Insider reported that years of Zuckerberg’s public writings had mysteriously disappeared, “obscuring details about core moments in Facebook’s history.” The missing trove included everything the CEO wrote in both 2007 and 2008, as well as more recent announcements, like the blog post Zuckerberg penned in 2012 when Facebook acquired Instagram.
• Helle Thorning-Schmidt served as Denmark’s prime minister from 2011 to 2015, and later was CEO of Save the Children, a humanitarian aid organization. She is married to the son of former UK Labour leader Neil Kinnock.• Catalina Botero-Marino is a Colombian attorney and law professor who, as special rapporteur for free expression for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, exposed efforts to violate free speech rights.Facebook began plans for the board in early 2018, as Zuckerberg, sensitive to criticism after the 2016 election , thought outsourcing some decisions to an independent entity would help Facebook’s credibility. “I think it would help make people feel like the process was more impartial on judging what content should be on the service and what’s not,” he told me around then.
Over time, the company assigned more than 100 people to help set up the board’s structure and create a set of software tools that would help it make its judgments. Late last year, the company set up an independent trust, funded by a $130 million grant, to manage the board, hire the staff, and pay members. The last step before the so-called Supreme Court of Facebook convenes was picking the members.For now, the board will only consider appeals in cases where Facebook took down user content; later it will tackle cases where arguably objectionable content was allowed to stand. (Take note, Nancy Pelosi.) It will also limit itself to Facebook’s main, blue, app and Instagram at first.
Another blog post on the company’s design hub goes into more detail about how the team used “custom typography, rounded corners, open tracking and capitalization to create visual distinction between the company and the app.” This apparent faith in the world-changing power of a good font will be familiar to anyone who has ever read a design brief.