Facebook and privacy are now like two weights on a weighing scale. Internally, the company had a big issue on its shoulders. People were making posts that were flagged by the platform’s auto-moderation system. Although the problem wasn’t the moderators or the posts, the problem was that the people making those posts were famous and noteworthy. Hence, the company didn’t want a PR mess.
To overcome that problem, Facebook came up with a private program called “cross-check,” or “XCheck,” which is practically an allowlist. According to leaked documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal, the program creates special rules for millions of VIP accounts on Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook’s Leaked Documents Suggest a VIP List
Facebook’s XCheck program has allowed several celebrities, politicians, influencers, and other famous people to post whatever they wanted without moderating or looking upon the content. If regular users post any content that Facebook’s artificial intelligence systems can capture, it is taken down immediately. However, content posted by users in the XCheck program can stay on the platform without routing into any moderation system. Facebook’s “better-trained” human moderators, who are full-time employees, then review content.
“For a select few members of our community, we are not enforcing our policies and standards,” reads an internet Facebook report published as part of The Journal’s investigation. Facebook must sugarcoat the report by writing “select few” in it. To clarify, more than 5.8 million people were a part of the XCheck program as of 2020. Most of these people have a considerable amount of followers on both Facebook and Instagram.
Even in extreme cases of content removal, Facebook’s VIP users received special treatment as per the leaked documents. For instance, renowned soccer star Neymar posted a nude video of a woman in 2019 who had accused him of harassment. The content would normally get removed immediately, but XCheck protected the post from any moderation system in place. Neymar’s video was up on Facebook for more than a day, and regular moderators couldn’t touch it. Further, the XCheck team took the video down by the time 56 million people had seen it.
Eventually, Facebook wants to phase out the practice of whitelisting. “We know our enforcement is not perfect, and there are tradeoffs between speed and accuracy,” said Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone in a Twitter thread. The tech giant’s spokesperson immediately made a public statement on Twitter after The Journal’s report.