The Oversight Board wants Facebook to explain its controversial rules for VIPs

A recent report said Facebook had 'misled' the board about its cross check program.

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Karissa Bell
September 21, 2021 2:35 PM
Founder and CEO of US online social media and social networking service Facebook Mark Zuckerberg reacts upon his arrival for a meeting with European Commission vice-president in charge for Values and Transparency, in Brussels, on February 17, 2020. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)

The Oversight Board is pushing Facebook to provide more information on its controversial “cross-check” system, following a report that the company has allowed celebrities, politicians and other public figures to break its rules.

“In light of recent developments, we are looking into the degree to which Facebook has been fully forthcoming in its responses in relation to cross-check, including the practice of whitelisting,” the board said in a statement. “We expect to receive a briefing from Facebook in the coming days and will be reporting what we hear from this as part of our first release of quarterly transparency reports which we will publish in October.”

The statement comes one week after The Wall Street Journal reported on internal memos that raised significant issues with the “cross check” system. Facebook has said the rules are meant to provide an extra lawyer of scrutiny to potential rule-breaking posts from high-profile accounts. But according to The Journal, these extra checks are often very delayed or don’t happen at all, effectively allowing famous people to break the platform’s rules without consequences. The report also stated that Facebook had ‘misled’ the Oversight Board when it said it was “not feasible” to share more information about cross check, and that the system only impacted a “small number” of accounts.

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The cross check system was also one of the central issues in the decision about Donald Trump’s suspension from Facebook. “In our decision concerning former US President Donald Trump’s accounts, we warned that a lack of clear public information on cross-check and Facebook’s ‘newsworthiness exception’ could contribute to perceptions that Facebook is unduly influenced by political and commercial considerations,” the board writes. The group also notes that Facebook didn’t provide specifics data it had asked for about how cross check works.

It’s not clear how much more information Facebook plans to share with the Oversight Board. The company declined to comment on the board’s statement. But the Oversight Board says it will publish its first transparency report next month, which will provide an update on cross check, as well as its assessment of how Facebook is following its recommendations.

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