Facebook has an internal mechanism that exempts politicians, sportspersons, journalists and other high-profile users from rules aimed at moderating content on the platform, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

As of 2020, the XCheck or “CrossCheck” system provided immunity from its rules to 58 lakh users. The users who benefited from this system included former United States President Donald Trump, Brazilian footballer Neymar, US senator Elizabeth Warren and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg himself, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Users in XCheck were placed in various tiers, the author of the article Jeff Horwitz said in a series of tweets on Twitter. Users in the lowest tier were entitled to an automatic appeal against their posts that are reviewed by Facebook employees.

Other users were given 24 hours to “self-remediate” their posts, instead of the usual practice of the platform taking down the content. Others enjoyed a “whitelisted” status and were not subject to any enforcement actions against them, the report said.

In a series of tweets in response to the article, Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone on Monday claimed that the XCheck mechanism gave a “second layer of review” to certain pages or profiles on the platform “to make sure we’ve applied our policies correctly”.

Stone, however, did not say anything about The Wall Street Journal claim that less than 10% of the content under the XCheck system were actually reviewed.

“We know our enforcement is not perfect and there are tradeoffs between speed and accuracy,” the spokesperson wrote on Twitter.

Neymar allowed to reveal identity of rape complainant

In one of the examples of how users on the XCheck list benefit from the system, The Wall Street Journal report said that Facebook did not immediately delete posts from footballer Neymar that were against the platform’s guidelines for “nonconsensual intimate imagery”.

After a woman accused Neymar of rape in 2019, the footballer defended himself by posting videos of his WhatsApp chat with the complainant on Facebook and Instagram, the Wall Street Journal reported. The chats contained the complainant’s name and nude photos of her.

Facebook did not delete Neymar’s posts immediately, as per the procedure for such content. Instead, the social media platform blocked its moderators from removing the videos for more than a day. An internal review also found that the video was viewed 56 million times on Facebook and Instagram. Another internal review found Neymar’s posts to be “revenge porn”, according to the report.

Facebook knew XCheck was ‘breach of trust’

On Twitter, Horwitz said that Facebook was aware that allowing those on the XCheck list to post content that amounted to hate speech and incitement was a “breach of trust” with other users.

In 2019, an attorney-client privilege review of the “whitelisting” process noted that the system posed “numerous legal, compliance, and legitimacy risks for the company [Facebook] and harm to our community”, the report said.

“We are not actually doing what we say we do publicly,” the review noted. “Unlike the rest of our community, these people can violate our standards without any consequences.”

However, the report added that earlier this year Facebook did not provide XCheck data to its Oversight Board. The company claimed that no such data existed.

The Oversight Board is an independent body that takes decisions on allowing or removing content on Facebook and Instagram.