Building Legitimacy in the Absence of the State: Reflections on the Facebook Oversight Board
Meta created a Facebook Oversight Board to burnish or attempt to burnish the legitimacy of its social media platforms. The Oversight Board can compensate for regulatory failure, particularly deficits occasioned by the absence of explicit direct government supervision. These deficits are usually marked by significant public criticism of platforms for their perceived failure to moderate content adequately. In a global context in which the interplay between formal regulation and platform-initiated efforts to moderate content becomes ever more intense and heated, innovations, like the work of the Board, can be enlightening. We look at aspects of the Board's creation to identify steps thought to manufacture legitimacy. In this case and others, the platform in conversation with stakeholders yields additional opportunities for review of decisions to take down or retain material and to allow additional perspectives on policy issues. In the process of review, we identify ways that platforms generate attributes of legitimacy, enhance strategic narratives, and develop an epistemic community—all with the goal of increasing legitimacy.