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Facebook accused of protecting far-right activists that broke site rules

A documentary says some pages are kept safe from deletion by "shielded review."

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Facebook's "shielded review" process allowed far-right pages to continue, a documentary says.

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Facebook allegedly protected the pages of far-right activists from deletion despite their owners engaging in behavior that warranted moderation, a documentary says.

Pages are normally deleted if they contain five or more items violating Facebook's code of conduct, but Channel 4's Dispatches series reports that popular ones are protected by "shielded review," according to the Guardian.

The documentary Inside Facebook: Secrets of a Social Network, scheduled to air Tuesday night, cites the pages of English far-right activist Tommy Robinson and the Britain First party as examples that repeatedly broke the social media site's rules, but were left up.

Individual pieces of content are removed, the documentary reportedly notes, but the pages remain since "they have a lot of followers so they're generating a lot of revenue for Facebook."

On Tuesday, the social media giant responded to the documentary in a blog post, where it noted that the moderation trainers in its Dublin office have been re-trained and this will be mirrored worldwide.

"It's clear that some of what is shown in the program does not reflect Facebook's policies or values, and falls short of the high standards we expect," said Richard Allan, the company's vice president of global policy solutions, in a statement.

"We take these mistakes in some of our training processes and enforcement incredibly seriously and are grateful to the journalists who brought them to our attention. Where we know we have made mistakes, we have taken action immediately. We are providing additional training and are working to understand exactly what happened so we can rectify it."

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It noted that the name "shielded review" was changed to "cross check" in May -- to more accurately reflect the process -- and says it's used when reviewing high profile pages to make sure the content isn't erroneously removed.

"We remove content from Facebook no matter who posts it, when it breaks our standards," Allan said. "If Tommy Robinson's page repeatedly violated our community standards, we would remove it, as we did with Britain First."

The pages of Britain First and its leaders were taken down in March, and Facebook noted in 2017 that it removes about 66,000 posts a week -- around 288,000 monthly -- due to what it considers hateful rhetoric.

On Saturday, Facebook offered an explanation for its decision not to shut down Alex Jones' conspiracy theory site InfoWars, saying that doing so "would be contrary to the basic principles of free speech."

After this, CNET suggested seven questions Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg needs to answer about InfoWars and fake news.

First published July 17, 6:28 a.m. PT.
Update, 7:32 a.m. PT: Adds comment from Facebook and details about cross check process.

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