Former Estonian president joins prominent Facebook critics to form an independent oversight board

A former president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, has joined a new initiative, founded by prominent critics of the social media platform, Facebook – a new independent oversight board whose goal is to analyse and critique Facebook’s content moderation decisions, policies and other platform issues in the run-up to the presidential election and beyond.

According to Associated Press, the group of critics include an early investor of Facebook, Roger McNamee; Filipino journalist Maria Ressa; the author of “Surveillance Capitalism”, Shoshana Zuboff; a former president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves; Reed Galen, a co-founder of the Lincoln Project – a group of Republicans and independents campaigning in support of the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden; and many others.

The group does not have any authority over Facebook, but it says, according to the AP, that it was started to sound the alarm about Facebook’s role in the coming election in the United States. On 3 November, the American electorate will get the chance to vote in the presidential election; also, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 seats in the 100-member Senate are up for re-election.

The group is warning that Facebook is being used to undermine the integrity of the US presidential election and it is calling for proper independent scrutiny of the company.

To decrease the spread of disinformation

Ilves told Estonian World that even though the group does not have any authority over Facebook, maybe it will be heard. “I was invited [to the group],” the former president said. “My wish is to decrease the spread of disinformation.”

He noted that in his belief, Facebook has already for years been used to influence public opinion. “Mainly we can point it out. So far, Facebook has not done it very successfully. Why, I don’t know. Maybe they lack will.”

Carole Cadwalladr, a journalist at the Guardian and a critic of Facebook, who helped form the new oversight group, said, according to the AP, that its goal was “to provide platform to amplify the voices that need to be counterbalancing Facebook’s denials and disclaimers”.

Cover: President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the United Nations General Assembly in 2016. Photo by Kim Haughton/United Nations.

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