Content moderation has been a hot topic on social media lately and now Facebook is the one sharing the hot seat (probably along with Twitter and the Elon Musk debacle). Back in 2021, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Facebook utilized a secret 2-tiered moderation platform, favoring those with a large public platform. According to the WSJ, the system was created to reduce moderation for accounts that may lead to a whirlwind of bad press. Instead of removing flagged material immediately, these accounts are subject to an additional review. The program internally referred to as “cross check” included former president Trump, Brazilian soccer star Neymar, and even Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg.
The secret system first garnered attention in September 2021. Within weeks, Facebook went to the Oversight Board, Meta’s semi-independent policy-making council, to look for ways to fix it. The Wall Street Journal reported,
“If Facebook’s systems conclude that one of those accounts might have broken its rules, they don’t remove the content – at least not right away, the documents indicate.”
A notable concern is that content posted by select politicians, celebrities, or other influential individuals may remain on Facebook longer than it would if it were posted by the average user. Some content remained on the platform for several months before Facebook made a decision to remove it. While opinions regarding content moderation vary, the platform has terms and conditions to protect users from false and harmful information and it appears that the crosscheck system may have skirted around those guidelines. Meta VP of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, wrote,
“Specifically, we will ask the board for guidance on the criteria we use to determine what is prioritized for a secondary review via cross check, as well as how to manage the program.”
The Oversight Board returned with a list of 32 improvements, including steps to make the secret cross check platform a bit more transparent. The Board suggested that Facebook publish information on how accounts may qualify for the cross check system. They also suggested that accounts belonging to human rights activists receive the privilege of the cross check system, rather than basing admission on business interests or fear of media backlash.