A little more than a year ago, in the first article announcing the release of the Facebook Files, reports based on the documents brought out of the company by whistleblower Frances Haugen, the Wall Street Journal’s Jeff Horwitz reported on Cross Check, a Facebook system that “exempted high-profile users from some or all” of the platform’s rules. The program shields millions of elites from normal content moderation enforcement. While the existence of such a program was known, its scale was– and perhaps still is– shocking.
Following the Journal’s reporting and subsequent concern in the public, Facebook (now Meta) President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg announced the company would request a policy advisory opinion on the system from its independent Oversight Board. 14 months later, the Oversight Board has completed its review and published its opinion.
Writing in The Atlantic, Kate Klonick, a professor at the St. John’s University School of Law and a fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School who has written extensively about the Oversight Board, said the decision “gives perhaps one of the most complete and exhaustive reviews (it runs to 57 pages) of how the black box of content-moderation appeals works for elite users of the site—and then discusses how to improve it.” She sees the board’s recommendations as “a call to establish norms like those that have long existed in journalism, creating a figurative (and sometimes literal) wall between the business and content sides of a newsroom.”
To talk more about the opinion, the Cross Check system and the problem of content moderation more generally, I’m joined with one member of the Oversight Board, Nighat Dad, a lawyer from Pakistan and founder of the Digital Rights Foundation; and one outside observer who answered the board’s call for opinions about the Cross Check system, R Street Institute senior fellow and University of Pennsylvania Annenberg Institute distinguished research fellow Chris Riley.
A transcript of this discussion is forthcoming.
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.