Mark Zuckerberg, the world's fifth richest person in the world, once said that Facebook lets its three billion users have equal rights when it comes to using the social media platform. But a new report has revealed otherwise.
In fact, Facebook has been running a system called XCheck or "cross check," which enables politicians, athletes, celebrities, and journalists to enjoy better perks and not worry about consequences brought about by the platform's moderation standards.
Company documents from Facebook reviewed by the Wall Street Journal revealed that XCheck was "initially intended as a quality-control measure for actions taken against high-profile accounts, including celebrities, politicians and journalists." Now, however, it acts like an "invisible elite tier" where some users are 'whitelisted" or "rendered immune from enforcement actions" and are even "allowed to post rule-violating material pending Facebook employee reviews that often never come."
The documents reviewed by WSJ revealed that some prominent users had actually gotten away with violations that regular folks would be suspended for. In fact, XCheck has gone as far as having "protected public figures whose posts contain harassment or incitement to violence."
Back in 2019, it allowed soccer athlete Neymar post nude photos of a woman who accused him of rape, placing it in front of millions of his fans before Facebook took it down. Moreover, these "whitelisted" accounts also shared stories that Facebook's very own fact checkers claimed to be false, including declarations of how vaccines are deadly, how Hillary Clinton was behind "pedophile rings," and how former President Donald Tump called refugees "animals."
A confidential 2019 internal review of Facebook's whitelisting practices read, "We are not actually doing what we say we do publicly." It said that the company's actions towards these elite tier of users was a "breach of trust" and that "Unlike the rest of our community, these people can violate our standards without any consequences."
According to The Blaze, there are about 5.8 million high-profile Facebook users who were "protected from enforcement action" as of 2020 and only 10% of the posts that were protected by XCheck were reviewed. While a spokesman for Facebook said that the criticism of XCheck is valid, the system was actually "designed for an important reason: to create an additional step so we can accurately enforce policies on content that could require more understanding."
The spokesman added that the internal material obtained by WSJ was "outdated information stitched together to create a narrative that glosses over the most important point: Facebook itself identified the issues with cross check and has been working to address them." However, the report claims that Facebook misled its reviewers when it comes to oversight and accountability.
This new information on the "invisible elite tier" of Facebook users is important in the face of its ability to silence even the former President of the United States.
Then POTUS Donald Trump had been suspended from the platform following the January 6 attack at the Capitol because Facebook claimed he used his social media platforms to incite violence, despite experts saying he did not. Even the FBI cleared him and his supporters of any involvement in the Jan. 6 riot.
Facebook said XCheck has been known to the public since 2018 and that it is trying to end its whitelisting practice.