Julie Owono is a French/Cameroonian lawyer focused on the intersection of tech, human rights, and business for Paris-based Internet Sans Frontières. Last year, she was named to the inaugural Facebook Oversight Board.
How do you think about protecting freedom of expression on the internet?
That’s precisely the reason why I chose to join the Oversight Board, to make sure the issues I see as an activist can set a precedent or can help us make recommendations to the platforms. If you look at the cases that we have taken so far, most of them are related to countries located in the Global South. It’s a priority for the board.
Social platforms are under fire for not having local staff in some countries where they operate but are wary of being at the mercy of more authoritarian governments. Is there a balance to be struck here?
By investing in more meaningful engagement with civil society organizations. Facebook, for instance, has various tools they use to foster engagement with organizations to flag problematic content. While all these initiatives are great, they also come with a lot of frustration, especially for the CSOs. We usually don’t know how our recommendations are addressed, and whether they are implemented or not and why.
Global South countries tend to see early warning signs of problems that can develop on platforms globally. What are you watching currently?
The criminalization of content moderation. We’ve warned companies on the necessity to invest more in content moderation—not only adding moderators but also explaining to authorities that there are rules everybody should respect on their platforms and that if you don’t respect those rules, the community standards, you should not be able to use the platform.
What’s the most common misunderstanding about your work?
With my role on the Oversight Board, I don’t work for Facebook, and I cannot lift restrictions on accounts. I unfortunately do not have that power.
What tech trend in emerging markets are you excited about?
I’m truly amazed at the discussions and conversations that I’m hearing about how cryptocurrency can help African nations achieve monetary sovereignty.
*This 3 Minutes With interview first appeared in Rest of World’s weekly newsletter. Sign up here.