Recently uncovered internal documents from social media giant Facebook reveal something the public has long suspected, the platform only applies its rules to some users while others get a free pass. The platform which has over 3 billion accounts has claimed that it treats all users equally but after suspending former President Trump while allowing other accounts that are in clear violation of the platform’s rules to get a free pass raised sharp criticisms. Now, documents reveal that is exactly what the platform has been doing for years.
According to reports from The Wall Street Journal:
The program, known as “cross check” or “XCheck,” was initially intended as a quality-control measure for actions taken against high-profile accounts, including celebrities, politicians and journalists. Today, it shields millions of VIP users from the company’s normal enforcement process, the documents show. Some users are “whitelisted”—rendered immune from enforcement actions—while others are allowed to post rule-violating material pending Facebook employee reviews that often never come.
At times, the documents show, XCheck has protected public figures whose posts contain harassment or incitement to violence, violations that would typically lead to sanctions for regular users. In 2019, it allowed international soccer star Neymar to show nude photos of a woman, who had accused him of rape, to tens of millions of his fans before the content was removed by Facebook. Whitelisted accounts shared inflammatory claims that Facebook’s fact checkers deemed false, including that vaccines are deadly, that Hillary Clinton had covered up “pedophile rings,” and that then-President Donald Trump had called all refugees seeking asylum “animals,” according to the documents.
A 2019 internal review of Facebook’s whitelisting practices, marked attorney-client privileged, found favoritism to those users to be both widespread and “not publicly defensible.”
“We are not actually doing what we say we do publicly,” said the confidential review. It called the company’s actions “a breach of trust” and added: “Unlike the rest of our community, these people can violate our standards without any consequences.”
Mark Zuckerburg has been the subject of criticism after banning Trump. The move prompted an Oversight board to later re-evaluate the suspension which eventually ruled to maintain it. In the Wall Street Journal’s reporting on Facebook’s documents it writes, “In describing the system, Facebook has misled the public and its own Oversight Board” regarding XCheck.