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Facebook kept its own oversight board in the dark on program for VIP users (cnn.com)
254 points by hoppyhoppy2 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 62 comments

>Facebook failed to provide crucial details about its "Cross-Check" program that reportedly shielded millions of VIP users from the social media platform's normal content moderation rules, according to the company's oversight board.

>Facebook told the oversight board that the program applied only "to a small number of decisions," which the company subsequently acknowledged was misleading

Indeed. Millions of users is a tiny fraction of Facebook's total user count, so in terms of absolute numbers it is probably a relatively small number of content.

But in terms of reach and influence, I would expect the VIP users to have by far a disproportionately large share. I would also expect them to be the most likely to post content that would end up in front of an oversight board. But of course, they are also the ones most able to raise a stink if Facebook moderates their content...

I guess its not much of an oversight board then!

The number of accounts under the program versus not I think misses the point. Facebook has separate rules that a privileged few get to play by. So privileged in fact, that their self appointed overseers didn't in fact oversee.

And these board members? What a joke. A kangaroo board. How embarrassing for those board members.

> I guess its not much of an oversight board then!

FB's "oversight boards" are to check a box saying they have oversight boards, nothing more.

I have no insider knowledge here, I'm looking at FB as a black box whose insides can only be deduced by the inputs and outputs, mind.

My understanding is that part of the reason these accounts were on a special list is that they were getting reported a lot. For nothing.

Like, Doug The Pug might get reported a thousand times per post for animal abuse.

Well, they didn't call it an "oversight" board for nothing...

Of course, it’s all a charade! One person owns and runs that company regardless of what they tell the media.

Not much of a VIP either! Millions of them...

I'm partly joking. Out of billions of users it's still one in thousands.

1/1000 errors/bugs/exceptions are still a big deal in my book! I have a relative who worked in high volume manufacturing. Uncaught errors that could hurt people were still a problem even if they could in theory happen at 10^-7 if you are making billions of something...

Yes, relatively it is a low amount...but at first glance it feels crazy that millions would get VIP status

The board members were chosen for their placating potential not any governance capacity.

They said "to a small number of decisions", and NOT "to a small _percent_ of decisions".

Millions of accounts - and likely tens of millions of decisions stemming from those accounts - is not a small _number_.

I don't get what the big deal is here. If you fly United a lot then you will get premium service. It's in recognition of how much money you are making for their business and how much they value keeping you as a customer. Similarly, if you build a large audience on Facebook then you get premium service in content moderating and its in recognition of how important you are to their business.

Presumably the people tasked with overseeing United's decisions are not given misleading information about the extent of United's programs for VIP customers.

I don't usually apologize for Facebook, but I wonder whether it might actually be a good-faith attempt by Facebook to provide good quality moderation.

If having human moderation costs too much to scale to everything, do you throw up our arms and say humans will moderate nothing and it's entirely up to bots? Or do you still put some limited resources into human moderation that could check 0.1% of content, then have some algorithm that picks what content the human moderation gets applied to?

If you go that route, you might be very tempted to try to design the algorithm for picking which 0.1% of content goes to the humans to try to pick "important" content. Because you want to apply your limited human moderation resources to content that's "important" to get right or will be "impactful" for large numbers of people or the trajectory of an entire society.

I understand why this angers people. Facebook might see it in terms of deploying limited moderation resources in the most effective way. But suppose you're an "ordinary" person who gets posts deleted, accounts locked, etc. by bots for no discernable reason with no appeal. As an "ordinary" person, learning "important" people have a different, more forgiving justice system where actual humans make decisions is going to make you pretty angry.

I'm not sure it's malicious intent on Facebook's part.

The point here is that their oversight board needs to know about these sorts of programs, not that the program is de facto bad.

Also, the program is bad though.

We know nothing about who chooses the members of the VIP club, there were cases of harassment and incitement to violence that went unchecked, and they purposely hid knowledge of the program for their own oversight board - even though they appointed the board themselves.

That's all quite, quite bad, to say nothing of the base inequality at he heart of it. They tried to hand-wave that away with this absurd line, saying the program was to:

> "create an additional step so we can accurately enforce policies on content that could require more understanding"

- dude, that's just saying that their chosen VIPs deserve more understanding, for some reason; in response to serious charges that the 'VIP's were inciting violence and harassing others.

Why would you expect facebook to share who chooses what a vip is? I can't think of any other vip program that shares this. A VIP program is about creating two or more classes of users what VIP program promotes equality?

The worry most have is the oversite board was not aware of the program which means the oversite board may miss other things.

You seem to be against VIP programs in general. Where do you draw the line? Bulk pricing creates inequality by favoring those who can afford to buy many products at once. Are you against this?

Are you really defending a social media giant implementing a secret VIP program that allowed secret VIPs to harass people and incite violence, when 3 billion other users would face bans and sanctions if they did the exact same thing?

I think the 'secret' part, where Facebook knew fully well that even their own oversight board stacked with their own appointees wouldn't tolerate such a thing - never mind 3 billion other users - quite clearly negates deceptive comparisons to "bulk pricing", and the like.

> The program had mushroomed to include 5.8 million users in 2020

Interesting number. Wonder if that gives us a rough idea of the global ratio of celebrities to normal people?

8 billion people on the planet vs. 5.8 million celebs means there are on average ~ 1500 normal people for every celebrity?

Seems kinda low... or that there are way too many users Facebook regards as "high profile".

The ratio gets even more suspect when you remember Facebook "only" has 3 billion monthly users (src https://backlinko.com/facebook-users) ... 517 normal people for every celeb

You are not counting popular animals or fake characters or tv show accounts.

Rules for thee and not for me.

It's just more of Facebook's desperate attempt to stay relevant and appease the most toxic "influencers" to keep their revenue going up and justify their absurd market valuation.

Facebook price/earnings is ~25. How is that an absurd market valuation?

I don't think this xcheck system is designed to appease the most toxic influencers unless you consider people like Cristiano Ronaldo or Ariana Grande toxic.

P/E is meaningless because it doesn't normalize to the number of shares. What you want is the price to sales ratio, which normalizes for market cap. And yeah, tech stocks are ridiculously overinflated compared to every other sector of the economy. Facebook ranks #3 in P/S ratio even in the tech industry.

So yeah, it's an absurd market valuation based on speculation of growth.

How is P/E not normalized? IT is literally the ratio of a company's share (stock) price to the company's earnings per share

P/E does normalize by market cap.

Earnings is actually earnings per share.


I believe the link to the actual report announcement is https://oversightboard.com/news/215139350722703-oversight-bo... and the actual report is at https://oversightboard.com/attachment/987339525145573/

>Between October 2020 and the end of June 2021, Facebook and Instagram users had submitted around 524,000 cases to the Board. [...] Facebook also submitted 35 cases.

>In total, the Board selected 21 cases to review and ultimately proceeded with 17 of these. By the end of June, the Board had decided 11 cases – overturning Facebook’s decision eight times and upholding it three times.

>On average it took 74 days to decide and implement these cases.


If this is a paid position, I'd like to apply for the obviously-necessary oversight board oversight board. We'd spend no less than 700 days to decide on cases, to be extra thorough.

I wonder what happened to those four cases the board “selected” but didn’t “ultimately proceed“ with?

I'm still amazed that anyone buys into the idea of internal oversight. At best it's a bunch of well intentioned employees who may find things and make the company more ethical who will eventually be axed by executives for doing their job (see Timnet Gebru).

Useful oversight has to come from external sources, particular by those most affected by your actions. Doesn't have to be entirely cut throat but god how often do schools let kids grade their own homework?

Big companies only make things like these so they can avoid external oversight. Then the Senators they buy off can say "Oh we'll step in when needed but it looks like they're trying."

Interestingly, I saw a TV ad from Facebook today saying they're asking Congress to establish "rules of the road" for social media companies. More about their ads and possible motivations discussed at https://themarkup.org/ask-the-markup/2021/09/16/what-does-fa...

US government went after Microsoft for antitrust years ago, which resulted in Bill Gates leaving MS. It's time for similar action against Facebook.

Bill Gates "didn't leave Microsoft" as a result of anti-trust.

He stepped down as CEO in 2000, but remained as Chairman for years after.

...and Amazon, then Netflix, then Apple, and maybe Google too.

Just out of curiosity, what did Netflix do? I'm most certainly out of the loop here

Oh we‘re talking about antitrust, quick name all of FAANG!

I'm not aware of any egregiously anticompetitive behavior on their part and they certainly fall well short of market dominance.

Disney would be a more likely, though still unlikely, lightning rod for apparently having sold their streaming service as a "loss leader" and having purchased lots and lots of copyrights and trademarks which they subsequently made exclusive, directly causing the termination of Netflix programs in some cases.

It had Dave Chappelle. So it must be canceled by any means necessary. </s>

No. Stop it with the false equivalence. Facebook is absolutely one of the worst and they need to go after them first

Edit: downvotes from shills.


Imagine there's a dude, who last year was viral for a month because of his dog or something. Now he gets into this shadow VIP group because anything he posts goes viral for a good while, but as is the case with anything viral, it dies down.

Now this dude gets an easier time harassing people, breaking Facebook's rules and being a jackass on their website, just because of his damn dog. This is creepy.

That's not how this works. If anything he will be caught sooner because he's in xcheck.

Is the harassment an issue for you or anyone you know on facebook? Facebook seems to be setup to separate you from people who would harass you and limit you to your friends. Compared to twitter, reddit or instagram or even a blog comment section I don't see harassment as a big issue.

Why should we care what this board has to say? It's an attempt by Facebook to be bound by rules that they wrote, instead of rules written by Congress. I don't see a reason to pay them any mind.

I don't like facebook the product, but I think they are being dunked on, too unfairly recently.

However, I'm most amazed and impressed how facebook has created a team -- likely compensated in FB equity -- and then convinced the world that the team is an "oversight board".

The board is not compensated in equity, nor are they employees, nor they can be fired based on their decisions.

The reasons fb gets dunked on (among others) is because people in comment sections are too lazy to spend 10 seconds to Google a bit of research:


Thanks for clarifying.

Their decisions are non binding though. This is probably just a dog and pony show.

On the contrary, I think they're being treated way too lenient.

The entire concept of a Facebook-created "Facebook Oversight Board" is a total joke, and I cannot understand why anyone has taken it seriously ever.


The Facebook Oversight Board sounds like a bunch of creepy silhouettes in a darkened boardroom moving pawns on a figurative chessboard.

"World Government" in One Piece

"Peter Thiel" in the 2010 film The Social Network

sounds like a bunch of people getting paid for doing nothing

Paid to lobby their friends in the media not to criticize the company too harshly. I'd say money well spent.

It's a sinecure for failed politicians and academics.

This is called “plausible deniability”

Their board knew, and approved.

VIP users looks eerie after squid games!

Truly this is like an episode of black mirror.

the oversight board was always a PR tactic. Zuck is the common denominator, expect more of the same bad faith and sociopathic tendencies. Scott Galloway has accurate critiques of these shenanigans.

In Facebook land some animals are more equal than others and their pseudo government is ineffectual because a secret program pulls all the strings. I'm sure this isn't analogous to the rest of the world.

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