Facebook has used a little-known VIP program for years that has allowed millions of high-profile users to circumvent its rules, according to a new report published in The Wall Street Journal.
According to the report, a program called “XCheck” or “cross-checking” was created to avoid “PR fires,” a public reaction that occurs when Facebook makes a mistake by affecting a high-profile account. The cross-checking program meant that if one of these accounts violated the policy, the violation was sent to a separate team so that it could be reviewed by Facebook employees, not its moderators who are not employees who typically review content that violates the policy.
Facebook previously revealed its existence, which was also reported by other media houses. But The Wall Street Journal the report found that “most of the content marked by the XCheck system was not subject to subsequent review.” This has effectively enabled celebrities, politicians and other high-profile users to break the rules without consequences.
In one incident described in the report, Brazilian football star Neymar posted nude photos of a woman accusing him of sexual abuse. Such a post constitutes a violation of Facebook’s nudity rules without consent, and violators of the rules are usually prohibited from accessing the platform. However, the cross-checking system “blocked Facebook moderators from removing the video”, and the post was viewed almost 60 million times before it was finally removed. His testimony had no other consequences.
Last year alone, the cross-checking system allowed content that violated the rules to be viewed more than 16 billion times before it was removed, according to internal Facebook documents cited The Wall Street Journal. The report also says Facebook “tricked” its Supervisory Board, which pressured the company into a cross-checking system in weighing the way the company should handle Donald Trump’s “indefinite suspension”. The company then told the board that the system only affected “a small number” of its decisions and that it was “not feasible” to share more information.
“The Supervisory Board has repeatedly expressed concern about the lack of transparency in Facebook’s moderation processes, especially regarding the inconsistent management of the company’s high profile accounts,” the Supervisory Board said in a statement. . “The board has repeatedly made recommendations to make Facebook far more transparent in general, including managing its high-profile profiles, while ensuring that its policy towards all users is fair.”
Facebook said The Wall Street Journal that the reporting was based on “outdated information” and that the company was trying to improve the cross-checking system. “Finally, at the heart of this story is Facebook’s own analysis that we need to improve the program,” said Facebook spokesman Andy Stone in a statement. “We know our implementation is not perfect and there are trade-offs between speed and accuracy.”
These findings could spur new research into Facebook’s content moderation policy. Some information regarding the cross-check “was handed over to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Congress of Persons Seeking Federal Whistleblower Protection”, according to The Wall Street Journal.
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