There is growing agreement among tech policy experts and lawmakers that Meta (formerly Facebook) must do more to allow external researchers access to data on their platforms, but what levers are available for proponents of independent research access to advocate for change? One such lever is Meta’s own Oversight Board. 

Last month, I was invited by the Oversight Board to have dinner with several of its board members and other experts on internet speech regulation. While the Board is best known for reviewing appeals of content moderation decisions made on Meta’s platforms, it also issues policy recommendations to Meta that, while non-binding, have previously prompted changes to the company’s policies. 

While it hasn’t been featured in any of the Board’s recommendations to this point, Meta’s policy of strictly withholding data access from external, third-party researchers came up in conversation over dinner. Since this is an issue CAT Lab has been working on closely, we sent the Board a short document explaining the problems with current policies and offering a series of steps the Oversight Board could take to help compel changes. You can read that document below.