The Wall Street Journal has seen internal Facebook documents that show high-profile users are not governed by the website’s rules like the rest of us are. Apparently, those users who are newsworthy, influential or popular, or are ‘PR risky’ can get away with more on the platform without being reprimanded.
Facebook uses a system called cross-check (XCheck) to exempt high-profile users including former President Donald Trump, footballer Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, and Senator Elizabeth Warren from some moderator oversight. According to the paper, cross-check prevented moderators from deleting a post by Neymar that showed screenshots of his WhatsApp chats that included nude photos of a woman who accused him of rape – had any normal users posted these, Facebook’s moderators would have deleted the post.
It’s understandable that Facebook would want a system like XCheck in place to avoid controversy, however, the system does alert the company if it thinks it has spotted questionable content. The major flaw, though, is that Facebook reviewed less than 10% of this content before last year. Another issue highlighted by the documents is that most Facebook employees can add accounts to XCheck but records are not always kept of who has been added to the list or why they were added.
In response to the WSJ’s findings, Facebook said that it realises the problems with XCheck and has been trying to get rid of the system. It also proposed a plan to restrict the number of Facebook employees who are granted the ability to add new users to XCheck.
The person who provided the documents to WSJ is apparently requesting federal whistleblower protection and the documents are set to be handed over to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Congress where officials will be able to further scrutinise them.