Facebook's secret moderation program exempts some celebs from usual posting restrictions

Tuesday, September 14, 2021 by Robinhood Snacks |
_XCheck status [Hill Street Studios/Stone via GettyImages]_

XCheck status [Hill Street Studios/Stone via GettyImages]

VIP pug life… A bombshell WSJ report revealed Facebook rolled out the moderation red carpet for at least 5.8M celeb users — including Donald Trump, Elizabeth Warren, soccer star Neymar, and even Doug the Pug. The drama revolves around a secret program known as “XCheck,” which shields millions of VIP users from FB's normal moderation process — kind of like an invisible verified badge.

  • For "regular" users, AI usually scans posts for rule-breaking content and quickly removes it if there’s an infraction. Meanwhile...
  • XCheck accounts are placed on a "whitelist" that allows them to post without the same level of scrutiny or repercussions (the moderation equivalent of bottle service).

Reporting politicians... It happens. Famous people get reported more than Berta from Oregon, even if their posts aren't flag-worthy. XCheck was conceived as a quality-control measure for actions taken against these high-profile accounts.

  • The problem: XCheck only reviewed A-lister content less than 10% of the time, according to WSJ. For example: In 2019, Neymar posted naked images of a woman who accused him of sexual assault.
  • Due to XCheck bias, 56M Facebook and Insta users saw the post before it was finally removed. While FB admits XCheck has flaws, it’s still not technically liable for its users' posts because of Section 230.

This drama adds fuel to the fire… the big, familiar fire. Social giants like FB and Twitter have been accused of letting abusive content run rampant, not applying moderation policies equally, and acting more like editors than social platforms. The mishandling of XCheck gives ammo to legislators who’ve argued for years that social giants should bear more liability for users' posts. TBD if they ever will.