Global Freedom of Expression

Oversight Board Case of Dehumanizing Speech against a Woman

Closed Mixed Outcome

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Electronic / Internet-based Communication
  • Date of Decision
    June 27, 2023
  • Outcome
    Oversight Board Decision, Overturned Meta’s initial decision
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    United States, North America
  • Judicial Body
    Oversight Board
  • Type of Law
    International Human Rights Law, Meta's content policies
  • Themes
    Digital Rights, Facebook Community Standards, Safety, Bullying and Harassment
  • Tags
    Oversight Board Enforcement Recommendation, Oversight Board Content Policy Recommendation

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

On June 27, 2023, the Oversight Board issued a summary decision overturning Meta’s original decision to leave up a Facebook post that attacked an identifiable woman by comparing her to a truck. In December 2022, a Facebook user posted a photo of a woman with a caption describing her as a used truck in need of repairs, saying she was “advertised all over town.” Although the content was reported more than 500 times, Meta decided to keep the content online. When the Board notified Meta of this case, the company reversed its original decision and removed the content arguing it violated Meta’s Bullying and Harassment policy. The Board recognized Meta’s correction of its initial error and recommended Meta to holistically address concerns regarding the ambiguity of its Bullying and Harassment policy to reduce the errors when moderating content.

*The Oversight Board is a separate entity from Meta and will provide its independent judgment on both individual cases and questions of policy. Both the Board and its administration are funded by an independent trust. The Board has the authority to decide whether Facebook and Instagram should allow or remove content. The Board issues full decisions and summary decisions. Decisions, except summary decisions, are binding unless implementing them could violate the law. The Board can also choose to issue recommendations on the company’s content policies. Summary decisions are a transparency mechanism, providing information to the public on Meta’s decision making and the Board’s recommendations relating to cases where Meta reversed its original decision on its own accord, after receiving notice from the Board about the appeal.


In December 2022, a Facebook user posted a photo of a clearly identifiable woman with an English caption referring to her as a preowned truck for sale— advertised all over town, requiring paint to hide damage, emitting unpleasant smells and not washed on a frequent basis.

The post was viewed over 2 million times and was reported by Facebook users more than 500 times. One of the users reported the content to the Board stating that “it was misogynistic and offensive.” [p. 2]

The user edited the photo by adding a vomiting emoji over the woman’s face to conceal her identity. They also updated the caption mentioning that they concealed her identity out of embarrassment: “to say that I owned this pile of junk.” [p. 2] Moreover, the user included information about the woman’s alleged activities on different dating websites.

Under Meta’s Bullying and Harassment policy, the company seeks to remove content that targets private individuals through attacks on their physical descriptions or claims about their sexual activity. However, Meta didn’t remove the post from Facebook at first. After the case was brought to Meta’s attention by the Board, Meta reversed its initial decision. The company considered that both posts violated its Bullying and Harassment policy since they included negative physical descriptions and made inferences about the attacked woman’s sexual activity. Therefore, Meta concluded that its original decision was not correct and removed the content from Facebook.

In this context, the Board issued a summary decision.

Decision Overview

The main issue before the Oversight Board was whether Meta’s original decision to leave up a Facebook post, comparing a clearly identifiable woman to a used truck, violated the company’s Bullying and Harassment policy, values, and human rights responsibilities.

The Board noted that when it brought the case to Meta’s attention, the company acknowledged its error and reversed its original decision by removing the post.

Nonetheless, following the amendment of the Board’s Bylaws in February 2023, the Board decided to issue a summary decision to increase understanding about Meta’s content moderation, reduce errors, and enhance fairness for users.

This case was chosen to highlight the Board’s concern about Meta’s failure to enforce its Bullying and Harassment policies regarding the online bullying and harassment of women and other marginalized groups. The Board concluded that Meta failed to remove a post that violated two elements of the policy despite its high viewership and volume of reports.

In the previous case of Pro-Navalny protest in Russia, the Board underscored several points in which the Bullying and Harassment policy was ambiguous and recommended Meta to clarify them. Meta only clarified half of those points and rejected the rest after a feasibility assessment. The Board was concerned that this case demonstrated a widespread problem of policy underenforcement.

The Board considered that Meta needed to lower its error rate when moderating bullying content that affected users, “while balancing the company’s values of ‘Safety,’ ‘Dignity,’ and ‘Voice.’” [p. 3]

Ultimately, the Board overturned Meta’s original decision and acknowledged the company’s correction of its initial mistake.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Mixed Outcome

In this decision, the Oversight Board contracted expression by overturning Meta’s original decision to keep content on its platform. However, the expression was of a discriminatory nature since it used misogynistic and sexist language to attack and harrass a woman. Hence, its removal aligned with international human rights standards which prohibit discrimination against women and other marginalized groups.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

Related International and/or regional laws

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

Official Case Documents

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