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Facebook appoints 20 members to its 'Supreme Court' for speech rules, including noted Trump critic

Posting issues of particular difficulty will be handed-off to the board for review and final judgment

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Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan testifies before the House Judiciary Committee
Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan testifies before the House Judiciary Committee
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
Updated: May 7, 2020 - 1:16pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Facebook’s recently announced so-called “Supreme Court” for speech on the social media platform includes the Stanford law professor who has at least twice in past years made public comments that suggest an anti-President Trump sentiment.

The lawyer, Pamela Karlan, invoked the name of the president's youngest son, Baron, when she testified last year during the Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee’s Trump impeachment hearings.

“While the president can name his son Baron, he cannot make him a baron,” Karlan said.  Though she promptly apologized, Karlan two years earlier publicly suggested disdain for Trump, when she said she would rather cross the street than walk in front of the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. 

The list of 20 people includes 10 men and 10 women, a total of nine law professors, several journalists and free speech advocates, one of the leaders of the Cato Institute, a former prime minister, and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Facebook announced Wednesday.

The board has been in the works for more than two years, following comments made by CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2018. The CEO has faced near-constant scrutiny for several years pertaining to his company’s “community standards” policies, which prohibit the posting of illegal images, in addition to hate speech, harassment, and the spreading of false information – most recently regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

The creation of this committee will potentially alleviate some of the burden from Facebook executives to design the company’s speech rules and field questions from the media and Capitol Hill lawmakers.

The company is attempting to create distance between itself and the board's operations. Facebook has created a $130 million trust to pay for its operation and has stressed that it cannot remove members from the body. Presently the board has 20 members, a number that will size up to 40 in time.

“One of the fruits of this if we do our jobs right is that this will bring about a degree of political and cultural neutrality. It is our ambition and goal that Facebook not decide elections,” said former federal judge and current Stanford law school professor Michael McConnell.

Notably, the “Supreme Court” appears to lack the presence of any experts on the spread of disinformation.

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