Former President Donald Trump is slamming Facebook for “secretly protecting its so-called ‘Elite,’ ” following a scathing report that revealed there is a group of 5.8 million users that don’t have to follow the social media site’s rules.
An investigation by the Wall St. Journal published on Monday has revealed that high-profile users on Facebook are being exempt from some or all of the site’s rules, through a system called “cross check” or “XCheck.”
The program was originally designed to act as a “quality-control measure” for actions against such users, like politicians, journalists, or celebrities. However, now, it allows those same users to publish posts that contain harassment, incite violence or other infractions that would sanction other users by banning or removing posts.
Trump, who is suing Facebook and other Big Tech websites for “censorship,” slammed the company in light of the new revelations on Tuesday.
“So now it’s determined in a major Wall Street Journal article that Facebook is secretly protecting its so-called ‘Elite,’ making them exempt from rules,” he said in a statement. “Facebook and Big Tech are so corrupt (‘unlocked boxes,’ etc.), this should help my lawsuit against Big Tech, and those people who hate America.”
While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has publicly claimed Facebook puts all its users on an equal playing field with its rules and regulations, Monday’s report shows otherwise.
The XCheck system has allowed users such as international soccer star Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior to publish a post that included a nude photo and name of a woman who accused him of rape. His account was “whitelisted,” which blocked moderators from immediately taking down the post, allowing tens of millions of people to see the inappropriate content.
According to Facebook’s operational guidelines, users that post unauthorized nude photos should have their accounts deleted. In the case of Neymar, a review resulted in keeping his account active.
In June 2020, then-president Trump published a post that read “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” An automated system indicated that the post most likely violated the platforms rules, usually forcing it to be removed after one person reported the post. However, as apart of the XCheck program, Trump’s post stayed up and Zuckerberg later revealed he made the call to keep it online.
Trump was a part of the XCheck system up until his suspension from the platform this year.
In 2019, Facebook knew this practice was not “publicly defensible,” the report revealed, citing an internal review of the whitelisting practices.
“We are not actually doing what we say we do publicly,” the review reportedly said, calling Facebook’s actions “a breach of trust.”
“Unlike the rest of our community, these people can violate our standards without any consequences.”
In 2020, XCheck included at least 5.8 million high profiled users including Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Candace Owens, Zuckerberg, and Doug the Pug. The investigation found that most Facebook employees were able to add “newsworthy,” “influential or popular,” or “PR risky” users into the XCheck program, with at least 45 teams within the company involved in the whitelisting.
Users who have been whitelisted are usually reportedly not told they are now susceptible to special treatment on the site.
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told the Wall St Journal that the system “was designed for an important reason: to create an additional step so we can accurately enforce policies on content that could require more understanding.”
That extra step, however, allowed posts that violated Facebook’s rules to be viewed over 16.4 billion times before they were removed, according to internal documents reviewed by the Wall St. Journal.
Stone has said Facebook is working to phase out whitelisting accounts, defending the company’s public communications on the system. This comes over three years after the company first acknowledged flaws in the system and claimed there are “no special protections for any group.” The same year, Zuckerberg estimated Facebook is wrong on about 10% of content removal decisions.
The XCheck system has faced backlash internally at Facebook, according to the investigation. In 2019, a memo by Facebook researchers called “The Political Whitelist Contradicts Facebook’s Core Stated Principles,” called out the system saying the company was “knowingly exposing users to misinformation.”
In response to the memo, Samid Chakrabarti, a former executive who headed Facebook’s Civic Team, spoke out against the whitelisting.
“One of the fundamental reasons I joined FB Is that I believe in its potential to be a profoundly democratizing force that enables everyone to have an equal civic voice,” he said. “So having different rules on speech for different people is very troubling to me.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.