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Facebook Oversight Board Co-Chair Says Regulation Needs Safeguards

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One of four co-chairs of an ostensibly independent board established by Facebook to improve its content moderation said Friday (Sept. 4) that she sees the need for more global regulation of social media and at the same time is concerned free speech is at risk.

“If regulation gets too heavy, it actually will impact freedom of speech very heavily,” former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

“I believe in regulation, I believe that politics has to play a role,” she said, adding, “I also think we have to be a little bit careful than just demanding regulation, because at some point it will just tip over and be a regulation on our freedom of speech, and I don’t think any of us want that.”

Facebook announced the selection of the board's four co-chairs in May. At full strength, the body is expected to have 40 members.

The social media company, which has been the target of withering criticism from critics accusing it of serving as a platform for hate speech and abusing its market power, has promised the board will be fully independent and that its recommendations will be heeded.

Thorning-Schmidt said in her "Squawkbox Europe" appearance that she and others would not have joined had they not believed the promise.

Describing her vision for the panel, she said, “What we are trying to do is basically socialize the decisions [as to] what content stays up on the platform and what content comes down.”

The goal, she said, is to “socialize these decisions, make them transparent, and also for the first time make it possible for users of Facebook and Instagram to complain when they’re not happy with Facebook’s decisions on content.”

She also said she would like to see the oversight taken over by a global body.

“I do think it’s obvious to most people that we can’t carry on in a world where it’s Facebook, and ultimately Mark Zuckerberg, that takes decisions on what content gets removed or stays up,” she said.

While the oversight board “is a step in the right direction,” she said, “Obviously it would be better if the U.N. or an international body like that could do this regulation, because it is global and it needs some kind of regulation, but this is a first step in the right direction.”

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