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Meta’s Oversight Board Wants Facebook To Be More Transparent About VIP Accounts • londonbusinessblog.com

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A year ago, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Facebook operated a two-tiered content moderation system. Normal users were subject to the rules stated by the platform, while VIP users were secretly marked as special in a program internally called “cross-checking”.

That list included everyone from Brazilian soccer star Neymar and former President Donald Trump to conservative commentator Candace Owens and company founder Mark Zuckerberg. According to the WSJ, that system is designed to minimize instances where Facebook could moderate a VIP’s content in the normal course of business and create a storm of bad press in the process.

“If Facebook’s systems conclude that one of those accounts may have broken the rules, they won’t remove the content — at least not right away, the documents show.” reported WSJ. “They route the complaint to a separate system, staffed by better-trained, full-time employees, for additional layers of review.”

Cross-check came to light in mid-September last year, and by the end of the month the company asked the Oversight Board, Meta’s semi-independent policy-making council, to review the system and suggest ways to fix it. “In particular, we will be seeking guidance from the board on the criteria we use to determine priority for a cross-check secondary review, as well as how we manage the program,” wrote Meta VP of Global Affairs Nick Clegg.

The Oversight Board is now back with their recommendations, calling for “significant improvements” to the cross-checking program.

“For years, cross-checking has allowed content from a select group of politicians, business associates, celebrities and others to remain on Facebook and Instagram for several days that would otherwise have been quickly removed,” the group wrote in a blog post. noting that some cross-checked content remained active for 7 months before the company made a decision on whether or not to remove it.

The Oversight Board offered 32 recommended changes to that process, including some steps that would make a previously classified program much more transparent. The board called on the company to publish “clear criteria” describing which accounts are eligible for the cross-check’s additional review process, to visibly highlight accounts that are in the program, and to allow people who may meet the requirements request the special account status.

The board also requested that Meta prioritize “users likely to express an expression of human rights importance,” such as journalists and civil rights groups in the cross-check system, rather than making these calls based on its business interests. “While follower count may indicate public interest in a user’s post, a user’s celebrity or follower count should not be the sole criteria for receiving additional protection,” the board wrote. “If users regularly post infringing content due to their commercial interest, they should no longer benefit from special protections.”

The full set of recommendations, published on the Oversight Board’s blog, calls for Meta to drastically rethink its priorities for moderating content for high-profile users. How much of this the company will actually implement remains to be seen, but this whole process certainly looks like a well-oiled machine compared to the policies going on on Twitter these days.

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