Meta was harshly criticized by an internal oversight board on Tuesday for policies that give celebrities, politicians and business partners special treatment compared with the vast majority of Facebook and Instagram users.
People with a high number of followers have been able to say and share things on Facebook and Instagram that would otherwise be quickly removed for violating company policies, according to the Oversight Board, created by the company to adjudicate thorny policy questions related to free speech, human rights and content moderation.
A program called cross-check ensured that high-profile users received additional review from a human moderator before they had their posts removed for running afoul of Meta’s terms of service. In a report, the oversight board criticized Meta for a lack of transparency about the program, which the board said provided “unequal treatment” to Facebook and Instagram’s most influential and powerful users at the expense of its human rights and company values. Meta has taken as long as seven months to reach a final decision on a piece of content posted by an account in the cross-check program, the report said.
“The board is concerned about how Meta has prioritized business interests in content moderation,” the report said. The program, it said, “provided extra protection for the expression of certain users.”
The board began investigating the cross-check program last year after its existence was reported by The Wall Street Journal and a whistle blower, Frances Haugen.
Nick Clegg, Meta’s vice president of global affairs, said Tuesday that the cross-check system was created to prevent erroneously removed posts from having an outsize impact. He said the company would respond to the oversight board’s report within 90 days.