With Mr. Zuckerberg first opened As the idea of a “Facebook Supreme Court” a few years ago, he promoted it to make corporate governance more democratic by forming an independent group of subject matter experts and giving them the power to hear complaints from users.
“I think there has to be a way to appeal in any well-functioning democratic system,” Zuckerberg told Ezra Klein on a 2018 Vox podcast.
The oversight body also served another purpose. For years, Mr. Zuckerberg had been consulted by Facebook as a political judge of last resort. (In 2018, for example, he got personally involved in the decision to expel Alex Jones, Infowars’ conspiracy theorist.) But high profile moderation decisions have often been unpopular and the setback has often been severe. If it worked, the oversight board would take responsibility for making the platform’s most controversial substantive decisions while protecting Mr. Zuckerberg and his political team from criticism.
It’s hard to imagine an argument Mr. Zuckerberg would rather avoid than the one about Mr. Trump. The former president drove into the White House with Facebook in 2016 and tortured the company by repeatedly circumventing its rules and daring executives to punish him for it. When they finally did, the Republicans raged on Mr. Zuckerberg and his lieutenants, accusing them of politically motivated censorship.
Facebook was also under heavy pressure the other way – from both Democrats and civil rights groups and employees, many of whom viewed Trump’s presence on Facebook as fundamentally inconsistent with their goal of reducing harmful misinformation and hate speech. No matter what Mr. Zuckerberg and his team decided, they were sure to spark the online language wars and make more enemies.
Ahead of Wednesday’s decision, Mr Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives went out of their way to convince a skeptical public that the supervisory board would have real teeth. They funded the group through a legally independent trust that filled them Experts with Hyper-Credentialed and promised to stick to his decisions.
Despite all claims to legitimacy, the supervisory body always had a Potemkin quality. Its leaders have been selected by Facebook and its members are (beautiful) paid out of the company’s pocket. It is Mandate is limitedand none of its decisions are literally binding. If Mr Zuckerberg decided tomorrow to ignore the advice of the board of directors and restore Mr Trump’s accounts, nothing could stop him – no act of Congress, no court order, no angry letter from Facebook shareholders.