The Oversight Board wants answers to Facebook’s celebrity moderation program

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    The Oversight Board, a semi-independent body that reviews Facebook’s moderation policies, announced Tuesday that it wanted more information on the “cross-checking system” Facebook uses to “review content decisions related to some high profile users.” The cross-check is being challenged following a report in the Wall Street Journal claiming the system allows high profile users to break the rules.

    “In view of the latest developments, we are examining the extent to which Facebook has responded comprehensively with regard to cross-checks, including the practice of whitelisting,” the board writes. “We expect a briefing from Facebook in the coming days and will report what we hear from them as part of our first release of quarterly transparency reports, which we will publish in October.”

    Cross-checking has the attention of the supervisory body

    Cross-check (sometimes referred to as XCheck) is designed to add extra control to high-profile moderation calls that could lead to controversy for Facebook. However, the Journal claims that it covered a huge crowd of 5.8 million people in 2020, and only 10 percent of the posts sent to the program were reviewed by Facebook’s second tier of specialized moderators. According to the report, users of the program include Senator Elizabeth Warren, Conservative commentator Candace Owens, and former President Donald Trump.

    Trump’s relative countercheck protection was reflected in the board’s decision to uphold the former president’s Facebook ban. Back then, the board found that there was limited public information about cross-checks – a 2018 blog post is one of the most recent. It advised the company “to clearly explain the reasons, standards and processes of the review, including the criteria used to determine which pages and accounts will be selected for inclusion”.

    As with all measures of the supervisory body, Facebook allows itself a certain flexibility in the reaction. The company has made a public commitment to follow the organization’s requests for individual moderation decisions, but reserves the right not to follow more general recommendations. It is also not legally bound by the board’s rules. With today’s announcement and renewed pressure to resolve a program with issues that Facebook is already working on, we may finally learn more about the controversial program.

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