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Facebook is criticized for its preferential treatment policy


The panel appointed by Facebook to review its political decisions, strongly criticized Thursday the company for its lack of transparency on an internal program that grants leading users preferential treatment on the social network.

The group, known as the Facebook Oversight Board, said Facebook failed to provide relevant information about a system called cross-checking, which was first disclosed by the Wall Street Journal and exempts users from high level rules such as those prohibiting harassment or incitement to violence which others on the platform must follow.

The board said the lack of transparency had hampered its ability to comment on Facebook’s decisions to remove or keep online content posted by users, including when the company banned the former president Donald J. Trump.

The Supervisory Board is a tribunal-like body made up of some 20 former political leaders, human rights activists and journalists chosen by Facebook to review the company’s content decisions.

“The credibility of the Supervisory Board, our working relationship with Facebook and our ability to make sound judgments on cases all depend on our ability to be sure that the information provided to us by Facebook is accurate, complete and paint a picture. full topic. at your fingertips, ”the group said in a blog post after the report was released.

On Thursday, the group criticized Facebook for not being open with users about the policies that led to the removal of some content. The group said they have received more than half a million calls from users trying to figure out why something was taken off the site.

“We know these cases are just the tip of the iceberg,” the group said. “For now, it’s clear that by not being transparent with users, Facebook is not treating them fairly.”

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly referred to the board as the “Facebook Supreme Court,” but in practice the group has no legal or enforcement authority. It was founded and is funded by Facebook, and critics have questioned whether the board has any real autonomy. Others have pointed out that it gives Facebook the ability to make tough decisions.

In a statement, Facebook thanked the board for publishing its transparency report.

“We believe the work of the board has had an impact, which is why we have asked the board to contribute to our cross-check system,” the company said, “and we will strive to ‘to be clearer in our explanations in the future. “

Facebook is under pressure from regulators to explain more clearly its political decisions and recommendation algorithms. European policymakers are drafting new laws that would require the company to make it easier for users to appeal content-related decisions and share more details about how its system works with external auditors.

Calls for regulation have multiplied after revelations from Frances Haugen, the former Facebook product manager who shared dozens of documents and information on the company’s inner workings with journalists and policymakers.

After Ms Haugen’s documents revealed the existence of the counter-check program, the Oversight Board said Facebook asked the group to come up with recommendations on how to change the program.

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