Facebook is giving high profile users special treatment, which includes period immunity for some, and has allowed Brazilian footballer Neymar to post nude photos of a woman who accused him of rape, according to a report.
The XCheck or “CrossCheck” system directs reviews of publications from well-known users such as celebrities, politicians and journalists into a separate system, according to a Wall Street Journal survey. As part of the program, some users are “whitelisted” – not subject to enforcement action – while others are allowed to post material that violates Facebook’s rules, pending content reviews that often don’t. do not take place.
People are placed on the XCheck list – where they are given special scrutiny – if they meet criteria such as “newsworthy”, “influential or popular” or “at risk for public relations” . The names of the XCheck program included Donald Trump, US Senator Elizabeth Warren and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, though the report does not say if those names were whitelisted at any time. In 2020, the XCheck list had 5.8 million users, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In an example cited by the WSJ, Brazilian soccer star Neymar responded to a rape charge in 2019 by posting Facebook and Instagram videos defending himself, including showing viewers his WhatsApp correspondence with his accuser. The WhatsApp clips included the accuser’s name and nude photos of her. Instagram and WhatsApp are owned by Facebook.
Instead of immediately removing the content, which is Facebook’s procedure for “non-consensual intimate images,” moderators were barred for more than a day from removing the video, according to the WSJ.
An internal review of Neymar’s posts found the video had been viewed 56 million times on Facebook and Instagram before it was deleted. A separate internal document called the posts “revenge porn”.
The internal review said the woman was being bullied and harassed online because of the posts and that Neymar was not going through Facebook’s normal procedure for someone posting unauthorized nude photos, it that is to say the deletion of his account.
“After forwarding the matter to management, we decided to leave Neymar’s accounts active, a departure from our usual policy of deactivating the profile ‘in one fell swoop’,” the review said.
Neymar has denied the rape allegation and no charges have been filed against the footballer. His accuser was charged in Brazil with fraud, extortion and slander. The slander and extortion charges were dismissed in 2019 and she was acquitted of the fraud charge in 2020.
A spokesperson for Neymar told the WSJ the footballer abides by Facebook rules and declined to comment further.
The WSJ’s investigation details the process known as “whitelisting,” where some large accounts are not subject to enforcement at all. An internal review in 2019 said that whitelists “pose a lot of legal, compliance and legitimacy risks to the business and harm our community.” The review found that favoritism towards these users was both widespread and “not publicly defensible”.
“We don’t actually do what we say we do publicly,” the confidential review said. He 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.”
According to another internal document, enforcement procedures and rule writing were the subject of input from members of Facebook’s public policy team and senior executives. A 2020 memo from a Facebook data scientist added: “Facebook regularly makes exceptions for powerful players. “
The WSJ also reported that the system suffered from application delays that allowed positions to remain in place before they were finally banned. In 2020, posts reviewed by XCheck were viewed at least 16.4 billion times before being removed.
A March memo revealed that Facebook was struggling to limit the number of users on the XCheck list. “VIP lists continue to grow,” wrote a product manager for Facebook’s error prevention team.
A Facebook spokesperson said criticisms of how XCheck was being used were “fair,” but the system was created to deal with content that might require “more understanding” such as conflict zone reports .
“Much of this internal material is outdated information put together to create a narrative that glosses over the most important point: Facebook itself has cross-checked the issues and worked to resolve them. We have made investments, formed a dedicated team and redesigned cross-checking to improve the functioning of the system.