On Thursday, Facebook’s Oversight Board released its first transparency report, where it criticized Facebook for failing to be “fully forthcoming” about its controversial XCheck program, which exempts high-profile users like politicians and celebrities from its rules.
Tensions have mounted between the Board and tech company since the publication of the Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files. These articles detailed the XCheck program, which provided a workaround against the company’s content moderation policies and provided exemptions to at least 5.8 million VIP users. These VIPs were allowed to post “rule-violating material” that harassed others and incited violence. In its transparency report, the Board found that the company was not “fully forthcoming” about XCheck, and that its behavior was “not acceptable.” The Board will be conducting a full review of the XCheck program and recommending how the program can be improved, along with making it more transparent.
“Facebook’s failure to provide complete information to its own Oversight Board exposes how the tech giant still does not apply its Community Standards policies ‘consistently and fairly’—despite claiming otherwise. Facebook’s Oversight Board must utilize this opportunity to spur major changes within the company for its content moderation policies, including enforcing them in a manner that is transparent and equal among all of its users,” said Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Executive Director David Ibsen.
In the past, Facebook has stated that the Oversight Board’s decisions would be “binding” and committed to implementing them. However, recent actions by the company indicates a retreat from that policy.
From October 2020 to June 2021, the Board selected 21 cases to rule on and made 52 recommendations. However, as the Washington Post reports, Facebook “has not agreed to implement all of them. In many instances, it has told the Board it is ‘assessing the feasibility’ of the recommendations.” As part of the rulings, the Board has also sent Facebook 156 questions and the company “declined to answer in 14 instances, and only partially answered in 12.”
For over a decade, Facebook has faced criticism for the misuse of its platform on issues ranging from the publication of inappropriate content to user privacy and safety. Rather than taking preventative measures, Facebook has too often jumped to make policy changes after damage has already been done. CEP has documented instances in which Facebook has made express policy changes following public accusations, a scandal, or pressure from lawmakers.
To read CEP’s resource Updated: Tracking Facebook’s Policy Changes, please click here.