Facebook Parent Meta Treated Some Users Unequally, Oversight Board Says

Facebook father or mother firm Meta says its guidelines about what content material is and is not allowed on its platform equivalent to hate speech and harassment apply to everybody.

But a board tasked with reviewing a few of Meta’s hardest content material moderation choices mentioned Tuesday the social media large’s declare is “misleading.” 

In 2021, Meta requested the Oversight Board to look right into a program known as cross test that enables celebrities, politicians and different high-profile customers on Facebook and Instagram to get an additional evaluation if their content material is flagged for violating the platform’s guidelines. The Wall Street Journal revealed extra particulars about this system final yr, noting that the system shields tens of millions of high-profile customers from how Facebook usually enforces its guidelines. Brazilian soccer star Neymar, for instance, was capable of share nude pictures of a girl who accused him of rape with tens of tens of millions of his followers earlier than Facebook pulled down the content material.

In a 57-page coverage advisory opinion about this system, the Oversight Board recognized a number of flaws with Meta’s cross test program, together with that it provides some high-profile customers extra safety. The opinion additionally raises questions on whether or not Meta’s program is working as supposed.

“The opinion details how Meta’s cross check program prioritizes influential and powerful users of commercial value to Meta and as structured does not meet Meta’s human rights responsibilities and company values, with profound implications for users and global civil society,” Thomas Hughes, director of the Oversight Board Administration, mentioned in a press release.

Here’s what it is advisable find out about Meta’s cross test program:

Why did Meta create this program?

Meta says the cross test program goals to forestall the corporate from mistakenly taking motion in opposition to content material that does not violate its guidelines, particularly in instances the place there is a larger danger tied to creating an error.

The firm has mentioned it is utilized this program to posts from media retailers, celebrities or governments. “For example, we have Cross Checked an American civil rights activist’s account to avoid mistakenly deleting instances of him raising awareness of hate speech he was encountering,” Meta mentioned in a weblog publish in 2018.

The firm additionally offers extra particulars about how this system works in its transparency heart.

What issues did the board discover?

The board concluded this system ends in “unequal treatment of users” as a result of content material that is flagged for extra evaluation by a human stays on the platform for an extended time. Meta advised the board the corporate can take greater than 5 days to achieve a choice on content material from customers who’re a part of cross test.


“This means that, 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 opinion mentioned.

The program additionally seems to learn Meta’s enterprise pursuits greater than it does its dedication to human rights, based on the opinion. The board identified transparency points with this system. Meta does not inform the general public who’s on its cross-check listing and fails to trace knowledge about whether or not this system really helps the corporate make extra correct content material moderation choices.

The board requested Meta 74 questions on this system. Meta answered 58 of the questions absolutely and 11 partially. The firm did not reply 5 questions.

What modifications did the board advocate Meta make?

The board made 32 suggestions to Meta, noting it ought to prioritize content material that is essential for human rights and evaluation these customers in a separate workflow from its enterprise companions. A consumer’s follower numbers or celeb standing should not be the only issue for receiving additional safety.

Meta must also take away or disguise extremely extreme content material that is flagged for violating its guidelines throughout the first evaluation whereas moderators take a second take a look at the publish.

“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,” the opinion mentioned.

The board additionally needs Meta to be extra clear about this system by publicly marking some accounts protected by cross test equivalent to state actors, political candidates and enterprise companions so the general public can maintain them accountable for whether or not they’re following the platform’s guidelines. Users must also be capable to attraction cross-checked content material to the board.

How did Meta reply to the board’s opinion?

The firm mentioned it is reviewing the board’s opinion and can reply inside 90 days.

Meta mentioned prior to now yr it is labored on bettering this system equivalent to increasing cross-check evaluations to all 3 billion customers. The firm mentioned it makes use of an algorithm to find out if content material has a better danger of mistakenly getting pulled down. Meta additionally famous it established annual evaluations to take a look at who’s receiving an additional stage of evaluation.

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