Facebook Reportedly Allows ‘Newsworthy' or ‘PR Risky’ Users to Dodge Its Platform Rules
14:20 GMT 14.09.2021 (Updated: 17:21 GMT 14.09.2021)
© REUTERS / Dado RuvicA 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020.
© REUTERS / Dado Ruvic
Although chef executive Mark Zuckerberg has publicly said Facebook’s standards of behaviour apply to everyone, regardless of celebrity status, BuzzFeed reported in February that the company purportedly bent the rules, obstructing content moderation decisions on behalf of certain popular individuals.
Reviews of posts made by these individuals are purportedly steered into a separate system by its XCheck programme, where better-trained moderators ensure Facebook’s rules are properly enforced. However, in effect, this allows the “elite” users subsequently to post material that violates Facebook rules, with pending content reviews often never taking place.
The programme reportedly protected 5.8 million people in 2020, according to a document cited by the Journal.
Once placed on the XCheck list, users are sized up to determine whether they meet specific criteria, such as being “newsworthy”, “influential or popular” or “PR risky”, states the report.
“Whitelisted” names on the XCheck programme ostensibly included ex-President Donald Trump, US senator Elizabeth Warren and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The outlet cites the example of Brazilian football star Neymar, who responded to a rape accusation in 2019 by posting Facebook and Instagram videos defending himself. The latter included revealing to viewers his WhatsApp correspondence with the accuser, who was shown nude in photos accompanying the post.
Despite this qualifying for immediate deletion in line with the company policy of “nonconsensual intimate imagery”, moderators were blocked for more than a day from removing the video, according to the WSJ.
By the time they were removed, Neymar posts had been viewed 56m times on Facebook and Instagram, with the accuser subjected to bullying and harassment online.
In a process known as “whitelisting”, some accounts of some high-profile users are not subject to enforcement at all, claims the report.
An internal review dating to 2019, cited by the outlet, stated that whitelists “pose numerous legal, compliance, and legitimacy risks for the company and harm to our community”.
“We are not actually doing what we say we do publicly,” the confidential review is cited as conceding, branding the company’s actions “a breach of trust”.
In the end, at the center of this story is Facebook's own analysis that we need to improve the program. We know our enforcement is not perfect and there are tradeoffs between speed and accuracy.— Andy Stone (@andymstone) September 13, 2021
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone responded to the report by telling the outlet that the company is working to fix XCheck, as the system is meant to “accurately enforce policies on content that could require more understanding.”