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Facebook Questioned by Oversight Board Over Celebrity Rules

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(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc.’s de facto Supreme Court of content is calling on the social media giant to release more information about how it moderates posts by famous people.

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The Facebook Oversight Board said in a statement Tuesday that it has asked Facebook to provide more clarity about a program designed to protect high-profile figures from having their posts mistakenly taken down.

The review by the Oversight Board follows a Wall Street Journal report revealing details about a system Facebook built to exempt high-profile users in politics, popular culture and journalism from enforcement action over posts that break their rules. The program, known as “cross check,” was designed to avoid public relations backlash over famous people who mistaken have their posts taken down, the newspaper reported. While Facebook told the oversight board the program only affects a “small number of decisions” it actually included at least 5.8 million users in 2020, according to the newspaper.

“In light of recent developments, we are looking into the degree to which Facebook has been fully forthcoming in its responses in relation to cross-check, including the practice of whitelisting,” the board wrote. Users who are “whitelisted” don’t face enforcement actions, the newspaper reported.

“These disclosures have drawn renewed attention to the seemingly inconsistent way that the company makes decisions, and why greater transparency and independent oversight of Facebook matter so much for users,” the board said.

The board said it expects to receive a briefing from Facebook in the coming days and will issue a public analysis next month.

(Updates with additional comments from board in the fifth paragraph.)

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