Investigations into an internal Facebook program dubbed XCheck has revealed that the company provides special treatment for politicians, Hollywood stars and high-profile athletes, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The “cross check” program was initially created for quality-control purposes in reviewing actions taken on high-profile accounts. But it has apparently been expanded to give preferential treatment to millions of users, according to the documents. These whitelisted users are exempt from certain enforcement actions that its 3 billion users are subject to on the platform if they violate rules.
Some users have been protected from suspension or other enforcement actions, while others continued to post content in violation of the platform’s rules and never get reviewed by Facebook’s content moderators. Some of the accounts part of XCheck include soccer star Neymar, former President Donald Trump, Elizabeth Warren, Dan Scavino, Candace Owens and Doug the Pug. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is also on the list.
A 2019 audit showed that some 45 teams throughout the company were involved in the whitelisting process, and users in the program are generally not made aware that they are receiving special privileges. Internal documents show that XCheck eligibility includes being “newsworthy,” “influential or popular,” or seen as “PR risky.”
One review of the program in 2019 revealed that XCheck made mistakes in regulating its own guidelines. Of the 18 incidents reviewed, 16 of them involved Facebook wrongly taking action against high-profile users. Four of the incidents involving the platform accidently took enforcement actions against Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, model Sunnaya Nash and Zuckerberg’s own post of a livestreamed Q&A with employees (it flagged it as containing misinformation).
Facebook is supposedly trying to phase out this practice of whitelisting, yet it grew to include a total of 5.8 million users in 2020, according to the report. The company had set a goal to remove total immunity for what is deemed “high severity” violations of its rules in the first half of this year, but a March report showed it was struggling to meet that target.