Facebook and Instagram put business over human rights by giving special treatment to rule-breaking posts by politicians, celebrities and high profile users, Meta’s independent policymaking council said on Tuesday.
A year-long investigation by the Oversight Board called for the overhaul of a system known as “cross-check” that effectively protects high profile users from Facebook’s content rules.
“While Meta told the board that cross-check aims to advance Meta’s human rights commitments, we found that the programme appears more directly structured to satisfy business concerns,” the panel said in a report.
“By providing extra protection to certain users selected largely according to business interests, cross-check allows content which would otherwise be removed quickly to remain up for a longer period, potentially causing harm”.
The Oversight Board, created in 2018 by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, said it learned about cross-check in 2021 while looking into Facebook’s decision to suspend former US president Donald Trump.
It comes after The Wall Street Journal revealed that Facebook operated a two-tiered content moderation system, which made regular users subject to Facebook’s rules but not VIP users, who were secretly put into the cross-check programme.
Trump was on the special list, as well as Zuckerberg himself and even Brazilian football star Neymar.
Following the Wall Street Journal report, Meta asked the Oversight Board in September 2021 to review the system and suggest ways to fix it.
“Because of cross-check, content identified as breaking Meta’s rules is left up on Facebook and Instagram when it is most viral and could cause harm,” the board said.
The Board has made 32 recommendations on how to fix the issue and said that content that violates Meta’s rules with “high severity” in a first assessment “should be removed or hidden while further review is taking place”.
“Such content should not be allowed to remain on the platform accruing views simply because the person who posted it is a business partner or celebrity”.
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