The social media giant created a program known as “cross check” or “XCheck” that shielded public figures from the company’s rules banning harassment and incitement to violence, according to internal documents obtained by the Journal.
For example, Brazilian soccer player Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. was able to post the nude photos of a woman who accused him of rape because he had been exempted from the content moderation screening that would have prevented him from posting them in the first place.
The XCheck program also included most government officials and candidates running for office.
The favoritism showed to the elite users who were “whitelisted” was widespread and “not publicly defensible,” according to an internal review the company conducted itself.
“We are not actually doing what we say we do publicly,” the confidential review said, adding that the “whitelisting” policy was “a breach of trust.”
“Unlike the rest of our community, these people can violate our standards without any consequences,” the review continued.
However, Facebook continued to deny the importance of XCheck, telling its independent Oversight Board in June that its elite program was used in only a “small number of decisions.”
By 2020, XCheck had nearly 5.8 million elite users.
This special program also enrolled the help of “independent” fact-checking partners.
Facebook would regularly ask these sites to go back and change their findings on posts from high-profile accounts, including those that spread “misinformation.”
A December memo from a Facebook data scientist put it this way: “Facebook routinely makes exceptions for powerful actors.”
Meanwhile, users who are not a part of Facebook’s exclusive list are censored and deplatformed for violating the site’s policies.