Facebook allows some celebrities more latitude in posts than average users

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An investigative report sheds light on how millions of VIPs avoid scrutiny

What Facebook users can and can’t say on the social media platform has become an increasingly divisive issue. Forget hyper-partisan politics — the company has been pressured to moderate “misinformation” on a wide range of topics.

The company has been known to take strong action against what it sees as objectionable content, as many ConsumerAffairs reviewers can attest.

“My account has been restricted (Facebook Jail) several times now,” writes Tim of Florissant, Missouri. “Each time was due to my response to a post that I had seen.”

Tim complained that his responses were taken as stand-alone statements and not considered in their context to the post. He says Facebook’s artificial intelligence may have perceived his words as threatening. 

“If the written responses were considered in relation to the post, they could not have been construed as threatening,” Tim argues. “It is a very flawed system of censorship that limits the ability to express new thoughts and insights!”

Ann of Kenton, Tennessee, tells us she has spent a fair amount of time in Facebook jail as well. Her claim is that Facebook objects to information she says is well-documented.

“They censor everything and use fake fact checking that does not even apply to the post,” Ann posted in her review.

Some Facebook users are more equal than others

But it turns out there are a few million Facebook users who aren’t subjected to that kind of scrutiny. The Wall Street Journal cites internal documents and numerous Facebook sources who say the social media giant exempts many high-profile users. 

According to the Journal, the program goes by the name of Cross Check or XCheck. The internal documents show it protects millions of VIP users from having to meet Facebook’s normal enforcement process. Some celebrities and politicians are “whitelisted,” meaning their posts are pretty much immune from take-downs.

The Journal contends this is not exactly a secret at Facebook. It cites a 2019 internal review of Cross Check practices and found it to be widespread.

‘Not actually doing what we say’

“We are not actually doing what we say we do publicly,” the review concluded. It 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.”

In a statement, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone acknowledged that criticism of the practice is fair but said the program was started with the best of intentions: “to create an additional step so we can accurately enforce policies on content that could require more understanding.”

Stone said many of the documents cited by the Journal no longer apply and that the company is working to phase out the practice of whitelisting.

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