The Silicon Valley giant’s program, called "XCheck" or "cross-check," created a so-called "whitelist" of celebrities who are protected from enforcement, according to The Wall Street Journal.
It was originally intended to preserve the company from bad publicity in the event that it directed content from some of the more high-profile users. Alternatively, critics say that it has protected those same users from the laws that refer to the general public.
The list of protected celebrities and VIPs includes Brazilian soccer star Neymar; former President Donald Trump; his son, Donald Trump Jr; Senator Elizabeth Warren; model Sunnaya Nash; and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself.
In 2019, a live-streamed employee Q&A with Zuckerberg himself was contained after Facebook's algorithm wrongly ruled that it disrupted the company's guidelines.
Movie stars, cable talk show hosts, academics, online personalities, and anyone who has a large following is protected by "XCheck" on both Facebook and its subsidiary, Instagram. As of last year, there were 5.8 million Facebook users covered by "XCheck."
The Journal stayed on internal data given to it by employees of the company who say that the program shields celebrities from enforcement actions that are administered out against the platform’s more than 3 billion other users.
If a VIP is considered to have broken the rules, their posts aren’t removed quickly but are instead sent to a separate system staffed by better-trained employees who then further review the content.
"XCheck" allowed international soccer star Neymar to post naked photos of a woman who had accused him of rape in 2019. The images were deleted by Facebook after a whole day, enabling them to be seen by Neymar’s tens of millions of his followers.
While Facebook’s usual method calls for removing "non consensual intimate imagery" as well as deleting the account.
But Neymar’s nude photos of the woman were permitted to stay for a full day and his account was not suspended.
An internal review by Facebook described the content as "revenge porn" by Neymar.
"This included the video being reposted more than 6,000 times, bullying and harassment about her character," the review found.
Neymar has dismissed the rape charges and accused the woman of attempting to extort him. No charges have been filed.
The woman who made the allegation was charged with slander, extortion, and fraud by Brazilian authorities. The first two charges were dropped, and she was acquitted of the third.