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Facebook's Moderation Policies Work Different for Public Figures

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The Wall Street Journal has found out that Facebook's moderation policies which are different for public figures and the common man are not necessarily treating all users equally. The reports indicated that the social media giant has a program called 'XCheck' which allows public figures to bypass rules and guidelines followed by regular users.

Meaning, this program is proclaimed to allow public figures to create their own rules for content moderation. Clearly, when a user shares something that violates Facebook's policies and guidelines, for example, the social media app promptly removes the content or limits its reach if artificial intelligence tools detect something wrong with it. The users of the XCheck application, on the other hand, did not have the same experience.

According to the study, Facebook has over 5.8 million VIP Facebook users enrolled in the company's XCheck program in 2020.

The XCheck program, often known as the ‘cross-check’ program, was created by Facebook to control the accounts of high-profile individuals. It appears that cross-check or ‘XCheck’ program was designed as a quality-control mechanism for actions taken against high-profile accounts, such as celebrities, politicians, and journalists. According to the reports, it now protects millions of VIP users from the company's standard enforcement process. Some users are ‘whitelisted’, meaning they are exempt from enforcement proceedings, while others are allowed to upload rule-breaking content pending Facebook personnel checks, which seldom happen, according to the reports.

Employees at Facebook appear to have known for a long time that XCheck is problematic. In fact in a 2019 memo titled ‘The Political Whitelist Contravenes Facebook's Core Stated Principles’, company researchers stated, "we are not actually doing what we say we do publicly. Unlike the rest of our community, these folks are free to break our rules without consequences”.

Facebook has tried to clarify its approach to moderation since its founding. With 2.8 billion members and a constant barrage of disturbing content, disinformation, and other concerns, the social media behemoth has spent the last several years recruiting small armies of contractors to monitor and censor the content that appears on its site. The more prominent a user is, the more difficult it is to ban or punish them for their content.

While removing a boisterous celebrity or politician from the platform can be a major, hazardous undertaking, XCheck essentially allows the corporation to postpone or avoid taking such enforcement actions, avoiding any potential controversy.

Along the line, the program is shielding a ton of public figures from the same kind of scrutiny that regular users face. But many are ‘whitelisted’, making them immune from enforcement and allowing them to post inflammatory content such as misinformation, violence and the like, that would get a normal user booted.

Employees at Facebook appear to have known for a long time that XCheck is problematic. In fact in a 2019 memo titled ‘The Political Whitelist Contravenes Facebook's Core Stated Principles’, company researchers stated, "we are not actually doing what we say we do publicly. Unlike the rest of our community, these folks are free to break our rules without consequences”.

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