Disentangling Entangled Legalities: The Flawed Dualism of Facebook’s Oversight Board

Facebook’s creation of an “oversight board” is the culmination of a protracted debate about Facebook’s role as a global speech regulator. The “Supreme Court of Facebook” will adjudicate Facebook’s “community guidelines” in light of human rights norms protecting free expression, thereby entangling a self-created platform standard with established (if contested) standards of legality under international (human rights) law. But Facebook’s oversight board bylaws limit its jurisdiction from the outset to cases which are not legally determined by “the law” – a determination to be made by Facebook’s internal legal department. This significantly curtails the oversight board’s ambit and power. It is also a missed opportunity for international human rights law. Facebook’s institutional design choices reveal a “flawed dualism” that treats the multiple legalities of online content as neatly separated instead of taking seriously their entanglement and potential for deliberative contestation.