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Dispute System Design for Facebook

Indisputably

The New York Times published an interesting article worth reading, which riffs on Mark Zuckerberg’s statement that Facebook would develop an independent body to make decisions about acceptability of posts on its platform.  He mused that the body might be like a supreme court to make final decisions reflecting global social norms.

The article was written by St. John’s Law School Professor Kate Klonick and Thomas Kadri, a resident fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project.

The authors discussed dispute system design criteria for the kind of institution that Mr. Zuckerberg suggested.

They argued that our existing courts have at least three theoretical virtues:  due process, representation, and independence – though they note that our court system sometimes does not fulfill these ideals.  They describe potential benefits and problems for a Facebook “court” to live up to these three virtues.

It will be an especially daunting task to develop a dispute system governing content on Facebook that generally will be perceived as legitimate and fair.  This would be hard enough problem given “normal” political differences – and the level of polarization has increased dramatically in recent decades, especially in recent years.  Since Facebook truly is a global network with billions of users who can distribute mass messages around the world in an instant, it is particularly vulnerable to authoritarian regimes that maintain power through deception, propaganda, incitement of fear and hatred of out-groups, and escalation of partisan and nationalist identification.  Presumably, for the Facebook system to gain widespread support, authoritarian regimes would need to accept the system.  Given these regimes’ interest in maintaining control, it may be particularly difficult to get their agreement to a system that would significantly limit their control.

Mr. Zuckerberg wrote that Facebook is initiating a consultation process to develop the system.  It will be interesting to see the extent, if any, that Facebook taps the expertise of the leaders of our online dispute resolution community.

                        author

John Lande

John Lande is the Isidor Loeb Professor Emeritus at the University of Missouri School of Law and former director of its LLM Program in Dispute Resolution.  He received his J.D. from Hastings College of Law and Ph.D in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He began mediating professionally in 1982 in California.… MORE >

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