A Facebook program known as XCheck gives millions of celebrities, politicians and other high-profile users special treatment.
The program reportedly shields millions of VIP users from Facebook’s normal enforcement process, according to documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal. Some users are “whitelisted” -- immune from enforcement -- while others are allowed to post rule-violating material pending Facebook employee reviews that often never come.
XCheck grew to include at least 5.8 million users in 2020, the documents show. They also show that Facebook is aware that its platforms are riddled with flaws that cause harm, and that Facebook lacks the will or the ability to address them.
In an attempt to moderate the excessive amount of content, Facebook created invisible elite tiers in the social network.
“In describing the system, Facebook has misled the public and its own Oversight Board, a body that Facebook created to ensure the accountability of the company’s enforcement systems,” the WSJ reported.
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told the WSJ that the criticism of XCheck was fair, but added that the system “was designed for an important reason: to create an additional step so we can accurately enforce policies on content that could require more understanding.”
The company designed the system to minimize “PR fires” -- negative media attention that comes from botched enforcement actions taken against VIPs, according to the documents.
For example. the documents show that 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 December memo from a Facebook data scientist sums it up: “Facebook routinely makes exceptions for powerful actors.” The statement was found in one of the documents that the WSJ reviewed.