Facebook Oversight Board Member Karlan Joins Biden Administration’s DOJ

By Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
February 9, 2021 Updated: February 10, 2021

A law professor who’s been a member of Facebook’s oversight board has stepped down to accept a position in the Biden administration’s Department of Justice, the board said.

Stanford University Law School’s Pamela Karlan will serve as principal deputy assistant attorney general in the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, after spending less than a year on the Facebook board set up in 2019 to review the social media platform’s content-policing decisions.

“Pam Karlan’s legal and civil rights expertise played an important part in shaping the Board and we’re grateful for her contributions. The Trustees and Board members congratulate Pam on her new role and wish her the very best,” board spokesman John Taylor said in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times.

Karlan said in the statement: “Working with my colleagues on the Oversight Board to build a fairer and more effective approach to content moderation has been an honor. The Board has a critical role to play in holding Facebook to account, and I will continue to watch their work with great admiration.”

The White House didn’t respond to a request to confirm Karlan’s appointment by press time.

The board, funded by Facebook but technically a separate entity, started accepting cases for consideration in October and has received more than 180,000 appeals, adjudicating less than a dozen. It’s currently reviewing Facebook’s ban of former President Donald Trump’s account.

Karlan had taken a leave from the board “when the Biden team named her to their transition team,” Taylor said. “That was publicly announced by the Biden team on their website.”

Biden’s DOJ agency review team, which included Karlan as a volunteer, was announced in the first half of November.

Karlan wasn’t involved in any of the adjudications the Facebook board conducted, Taylor confirmed to The Epoch Times after it was first reported by Politico.

In 2019, Karlan testified during the House’s impeachment inquiry against Trump, making a quip about the president’s son’s name, for which she later apologized. During one public appearance, she joked that she “had to cross the street” to avoid walking on the same side as Trump’s Washington hotel.

In 2013–2014, she served as deputy assistant attorney general for voting rights in the civil rights division.

In 2009, The New York Times presented her as the favorite potential Supreme Court pick of “the left.”

Karlan’s journey fits a pattern of revolving doors between Facebook and Democratic administrations. Last month, Facebook hired Roy Austin, an Obama administration veteran and a member of Biden’s transition team, as the company’s vice president of civil rights and deputy general counsel.

Former Facebook associate general counsel Jessica Hertz was the Biden transition’s general counsel and is now the president’s White House staff secretary. Jeffrey Zients—Biden’s coronavirus czar—served on Facebook’s board of directors from 2018 to 2020. Austin Lin, a former program manager at Facebook, was reportedly tapped for a deputy role at White House’s Office of Management and Administration. Erskine Bowles, a former Facebook board member, reportedly advised the transition team.

Hertz, Zients, and Lin held roles in the Obama administration, while Bowles served as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg gave $500 million to election officials ahead of the 2020 election for measures such as ballot drop boxes and mail-in voting, describing them as tools to make voting safer amid the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic. The grants violated election laws and were distributed unevenly, favoring Democrat-heavy areas, according to The Amistad Project of the Thomas More Society, a constitutional litigation organization.

Update: This story has been updated with further information from Facebook oversight board spokesperson John Taylor.

Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.