There is a double standard within Facebook, which means that at least 5.8 million users do not have to follow the same rules as the rest of Facebook. The Wall Street Journal writes this on the basis of internal documents and conversations with those involved. Incidentally, the number of 5.8 million is a fraction of the total number of users: that is 2.89 billion.
According to the newspaper, the documents prove that the system, which is also known internally cross check or called XCheck, has at times protected famous people whose posts contain slander or calls for violence. That is content that would normally be punishable under Facebook rules.
The system was originally devised to deal with errors in moderation, but due to understaffing, the rules were no longer applied to people on a particular VIP list, the newspaper said. The VIP status applies to, for example, politicians, football players, TV celebrities and people with many online followers.
Internally, there also seems to be some discomfort about the system. “We’re not actually doing what we publicly say we’re doing,” a confidential internal statement said. The course of action is called a “breach of trust”. “Unlike the rest of our community, these people can break our rules with no consequences.”
In response, Facebook said many of the papers it relies on are dated and that the content “has been brought together to create a story that obscures the main point: Facebook discovered and addressed the issues itself.” The newspaper, on the other hand, argues that Facebook would have seen “years ago” that the exceptions were unacceptable, but that the system still existed and even continued to grow.
As an example, The Wall Street Journal highlights the Brazilian footballer Neymar. In 2019, he was charged with a rape; he defended himself in a video on Facebook and Instagram. In it he showed, among other things, the name of the woman and nude photos of her. According to Neymar, he was extorted.
Normally, the newspaper writes, the message would be deleted immediately. But it stayed for more than a day due to a blockage in the system. In addition, according to Facebook’s rules, Neymar’s account itself should also be deleted. That didn’t happen either. Neymar continued to deny the allegations and no charges were filed.
What the newspaper also points out is that Facebook is misleading its own supervisory board with this system. The Facebook Oversight Board, set up by the company itself, asked to start tracking how often mistakes are made when it moderates known users. According to Facebook, it is not possible to keep track of this and everyone is treated the same.
In a response, Facebook’s supervisory board says it has often been concerned about “the lack of transparency in Facebook’s moderation process”: