Facebook “misplaced” guidance on an important exemption to its rules on dangerous individuals and organisations for three years, the company’s independent oversight board said on Thursday.

The board, which was created by the company to rule on a small slice of contentious content decisions, said it had overturned Facebook’s original removal of an Instagram post encouraging people to talk about the solitary confinement of Abdullah Ocalan, a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

It said the content should never have been removed, but it also said that after it selected the case, Facebook found a relevant piece of its internal rules had “inadvertently not transferred” to a new review system in 2018.

This guidance made an exception to Facebook’s rules, which prohibit support or praise of individuals or organisations it designates as dangerous, to allow discussion on the conditions of confinement.

Facebook has long been under scrutiny over what is allowed on its platforms and has been criticised by the board for a lack of transparency around its rules. The board said it was “concerned” that Facebook had lost an important policy exemption for this time and that this could have led to other posts being wrongly taken down.

It said the guidance, which was not shared with Facebook’s policy team, was developed in 2017 partly in response to concerns about the conditions of Ocalan’s imprisonment.

A company spokeswoman declined to answer Reuters questions about how the policy was lost. The board said Facebook was conducting a review of how it failed to transfer the guidance but said it was not “technically feasible” to determine how many pieces of content were taken down while the guidance was not available. Facebook had restored the content before the board’s decision.

The board has recommended Facebook publish the results of its review, including descriptions of any other lost policies.

© Thomson Reuters 2021