Oversight panel rebukes Facebook, will review VIP system

Facebook’s independent oversight panel slammed the Mark Zuckerberg-led company on Thursday, announcing a probe into a system that has reportedly exempted a secret group of ‘whitelisted’ elite from its rules, while calling for more transparency.

Publishing its first transparency reports – which covers cases in the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first and second quarters of 2021 – the oversight panel concluded that Facebook has not been ‘fully forthcoming’ with the board on the so-called ‘cross-check’ or ‘XCheck’ system that shielded millions of elite users from rules it claims are equal to all of its users.  

‘In the Board’s view, the team within Facebook tasked with providing information has not been fully forthcoming on cross-check,’ the board wrote in a statement

‘On some occasions, Facebook failed to provide relevant information to the Board, while in other instances, the information it did provide was incomplete.

Facebook's oversight panel announced a probe into the Mark Zuckerberg-led company's system that has exempted a secret group of 'whitelisted' elite from its rules

Facebook's oversight panel announced a probe into the Mark Zuckerberg-led company's system that has exempted a secret group of 'whitelisted' elite from its rules

Facebook’s oversight panel announced a probe into the Mark Zuckerberg-led company’s system that has exempted a secret group of ‘whitelisted’ elite from its rules 

The oversight panel concluded Facebook has not been 'fully forthcoming' with the board on the 'XCheck' system. The board said that when Facebook referred the case of former U.S. President Trump, it did not mention the system

The oversight panel concluded Facebook has not been 'fully forthcoming' with the board on the 'XCheck' system. The board said that when Facebook referred the case of former U.S. President Trump, it did not mention the system

The oversight panel concluded Facebook has not been ‘fully forthcoming’ with the board on the ‘XCheck’ system. The board said that when Facebook referred the case of former U.S. President Trump, it did not mention the system

The board specifically cited the case related to former U.S. President Trump, adding that when Facebook referred the case, it did not mention the ‘cross-check’ system.  

‘Given that the referral included a specific policy question about account-level enforcement for political leaders, many of whom the Board believes were covered by cross-check, this omission is not acceptable,’ the board added. 

‘Facebook only mentioned cross-check to the Board when we asked whether Mr. Trump’s page or account had been subject to ordinary content moderation processes.’

The board added that it has accepted a request from the Mark Zuckerberg-led company to review the system and make recommendations for changing it.

‘As part of this review, Facebook has agreed to share with the Board documents concerning the cross-check system as reported in the Wall Street Journal, the statement added.

Over 524,000 cases have been submitted to the board between October 2020 and June 2021, increasing in amount in each quarter.

The board estimated that 'nearly half' of the appeals (45.6 percent) came from the U.S. and Canada, with Europe (21.8 percent) and Latin America and the Caribbean (16.5) as the next largest regions

The board estimated that 'nearly half' of the appeals (45.6 percent) came from the U.S. and Canada, with Europe (21.8 percent) and Latin America and the Caribbean (16.5) as the next largest regions

The board estimated that ‘nearly half’ of the appeals (45.6 percent) came from the U.S. and Canada, with Europe (21.8 percent) and Latin America and the Caribbean (16.5) as the next largest regions

The board estimated that ‘nearly half’ of the appeals (45.6 percent) came from the U.S. and Canada, with Europe (21.8 percent) and Latin America and the Caribbean (16.5) as the next largest regions. 

So far, it has taken on 20 cases and issued 17 decisions, covering topics from hate speech to COVID-19 misinformation.

The board noted that Facebook has answered the majority of its questions - 130 out of 156 - about specific cases, while partially answering 12 and declining to answer 14

The board noted that Facebook has answered the majority of its questions - 130 out of 156 - about specific cases, while partially answering 12 and declining to answer 14

The board noted that Facebook has answered the majority of its questions – 130 out of 156 – about specific cases, while partially answering 12 and declining to answer 14

The board noted that Facebook has answered the majority of its questions – 130 out of 156 – about specific cases, while partially answering 12 and declining to answer 14. 

The board highlighted that its credibility, its working relationship with Facebook and the ability to ‘render sound judgements’ depend on being able to trust the information that Facebook gives it is accurate, comprehensive and ‘paints a full picture of the topic at hand.’ 

Mark Zuckerberg’s livestream Q&A with his employees was banned by his OWN algorithm 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

In 2019, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg held a livestreamed Q&A session with employees from his own companies.

But the session was mistakenly banned because it ran afoul of the platform’s own algorithm, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The mistake was one of 18 instances from 2019 that were inadvertently flagged among those who are ‘whitelisted’ by the ‘XCheck’ program.

Four of those instances involved posts by then-President Donald Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr.

The other incidents included posts by Senator Elizabeth Warren, fashion model Sunnaya Nash, and others.

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The statement comes after a series of damning stories from The Wall Street Journal driven by a whistleblower’s leaks that added outrage and lawmaker scrutiny into the tech giant’s impact on mental health and how it treats celebrities.

The so-called ‘cross-check’ or ‘XCheck’ system shields millions of elite users from rules that Facebook claims to apply equally at the social media giant, according to reports from The Journal, citing internal documents.

If a VIP is believed to have violated the rules their posts aren’t removed immediately but are instead sent to a separate system staffed by better-trained employees who then further review the content.

The XCheck program has been in place for years – well before Trump was banned from the platform after he was accused of fomenting the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. 

It was initially designed as a type of quality control to protect the company from bad publicity in the event that it moderated content from high-profile users, but critics say it has shielded those same users from the rules that apply to the general public. 

Facebook employees have spoken out on the practice of whitelisting, complaining that it left users exposed to misinformation.

‘We are knowingly exposing users to misinformation that we have the processes and resources to mitigate,’ read a 2019 memo by Facebook researchers.

At one point, content moderators were reviewing less than 10 per cent of problematic posts by users shielded by XCheck.

One Facebook user who was on the whitelist was allowed to share an article by a doctor who died more than 40 years ago claiming that chemotherapy was ineffective in treating cancer.

Samidh Chakrabarti, an executive who headed Facebook’s Civic Team, wrote in a document: ‘One of the fundamental reasons I joined FB Is that I believe in its potential to be a profoundly democratizing force that enables everyone to have an equal civic voice.

‘So having different rules on speech for different people is very troubling to me.’

The oversight board was created last year with a $130 million trust fund from Facebook, which allows the committee to make final decisions on whether individual pieces of content can remain on the site. 

While it was initially designed to as a type of quality control to protect the company from bad publicity in the event that it moderated content from high-profile users, critics say it has shielded those same users from the rules that apply to the general public. 

Facebook banned Trump for years, noting that he deserved maximum punishment for violating rules during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

At the end of the ban, the Mark Zuckerberg-led company is set to use experts to determine whether his actions are still a threat to public safety.

The Facebook-funded oversight board is made of experts from different backgrounds, including the four co-chairs, Catalina Botero-Marino, Jamal Greene, Michael McConnell and Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

The independent group has the final say on what is removed or allowed to stay on the platform. 

The board estimated that ‘nearly half’ of the appeals (45.6 percent) came from the U.S. and Canada, with Europe (21.8 percent) and Latin America and the Caribbean (16.5) as the next largest regions.

Link hienalouca.com

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