According to the founder Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook it does not discriminate between users and allows its 3 billion subscribers to express themselves on a parity with personalities from politics, culture, entertainment and journalism. It’s just not true. The Facebook files, an investigation by Wall Street Journal who had access to internal documents of the Menlo Park company which also controls Whatsapp and Instagram, reveals that to famous people a is reserved preferential treatment. With rules of conduct that are much more permissive than those that apply to other users. To do this, documents the financial newspaper, a program known as “XCheck“, Initially conceived as an additional form of protection for high-level profiles, but transformed over time into a system for exclude millions of VIPs from checks on the quality of content and interactions. Like? Some accounts are directly included by the program in one white list which exempts them from all sanctions. Others, on the other hand, are allowed to post content that goes against the standards pending a subsequent control of the company, which most of the time does not arrive. “In reality we are not doing what we say we do publicly“, The company admits in the document consulted by Wsj.
XCheck allowed public figures to post content they contained without consequence harassment or incitement to violence, and that they would certainly have led to sanctions if they had been “normal” users to publish them. In 2019, for example, he left the Paris Sant-Germain player Neymar post clothesless photos of a woman who accused him of rape, showing her to tens of millions of fans before the content was removed. Among the posts appeared on the profiles of white list some sensational ones also appeared fake news recognized by Facebook itself: “Vaccines are deadly,” “Hillary Clinton has their backs to pedophile circles“,“ Donald Trump compares asylum seekers to animals ”. “Unlike the rest of our community – reads an internal document – these people they can violate our standards without consequences ”, a practice that“ is not justifiable in public ”. In 2020, the newspaper reports, they were almost part of this “invisible elite” managed by XCheck six million users (0.2% of the total) who are guaranteed a sort of permanent impunity.
The spokesperson for Facebook Andy Stone he replied that the criticisms of XCheck are correct, but explained that the system “was designed for an important reason: to create an extra step of control on content that is particularly sensitive and requires more careful evaluation”. Stone later added that the company would be working for gradually eliminate the list of privileged people. The Wall Street Journal he adds however that the company is aware of how its platforms are full of flaws from which damage derives whose extent can often be fully understood only by the company itself. Some of these papers – which include research investigations, internal discussions between employees and draft reports to management – were sent to the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the US Congress by a Facebook worker who asked to be protected under the federal law on whistleblower. The documents, writes the newspaper, “show as clearly as possible how much Facebook’s problems are known to those who work there, up to Zuckerberg himself. And that when the company addresses these issues in public, it does so with partial or misleading answers, masking everything it knows “.
Unlike standard users – on which the check is automated and often cut with a hatchet – those under the umbrella of XCheck are treated with velvet gloves. If the Facebook algorithm finds that one of the accounts in white list is breaking the rules, does not remove the offending content but forwards the file to a dedicated team, made up of specialized employees, for further evaluation. They don’t always arrive, and when they do arrive they do so with such a delay that the “forbidden” content can reach a gigantic audience. According to a report dated December 2020, last year XCheck allowed illegitimate content to be viewed 16.4 billion times.
Let’s take the case of Neymar: after a woman accused him of raping her in 2019, he – to defend himself – posted his exchanges of messages with her on Facebook and Instagram, in which his name and hers appeared. photo without clothes, accusing her of wanting to blackmail him. The standard procedure for such a case would be simple: remove the content immediately. But Neymar was protected by XCheck: so, for over 24 hours, the system prevented Facebook moderators from deleting the images of revenge porn, which were seen by 56 million people and shared more than 6,000 times. Donald Trump’s account was also managed by XCheck before his two-year suspension from Facebook, decided last June: so much so that a racist quote from the former president, reported by the algorithm, was “spared” by direct intervention by Zuckerberg, who publicly admitted the circumstance.