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Facebook's oversight board says company has repeatedly failed to be transparent

The social media giant has repeatedly failed to provide information on its "cross check" process, says the Oversight Board.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Facebook's Oversight Board on Thursday said the social media giant needs to be more transparent about how it treats content from high-profile users and how those users are selected into what's known as the Cross Check program

The program, also known as XCheck, exempts high-profile users such as celebrities and political leaders from the platform's community standards. The program came into the spotlight as part of a Wall Street Journal series based on a massive trove of leaked documents that exposed how much the social network knows about its effects on users. 

Earlier this month, the Oversight Board said that it was going to talk to Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower who leaked documents used in the Journal series. It's unclear if they've already met with her. 

The Oversight Board on Thursday said Facebook repeatedly failed to turn over requested information on high-profile user decisions -- such as former President Donald Trump's suspension from the platform or the Cross Check program in general  -- or provided incomplete information. 

"Facebook's response to our recommendation to 'clearly explain the rationale, standards and processes of [cross-check] review, including the criteria to determine which pages and accounts are selected for inclusion' provided no meaningful transparency on the criteria for accounts or pages being selected for inclusion in cross-check," the Oversight Board said. 

In response to this criticism, Facebook requested the Oversight Board review the company's cross-check system and make recommendations on how it can be changed, a request that the Oversight Board has accepted.

"We thank the board for their ongoing work and for issuing their transparency report," a Facebook spokesperson told CNET. "We believe the board's work has been impactful, which is why we asked the board for input into our cross-check system, and we will strive to be clearer in our explanations to them going forward."

The Oversight Board also released transparency reports that include the last quarter of 2020 and the first two quarters of 2021. The reports include expanded details on the cases received from users, decisions made so far and recommendations to Facebook. The board has said it will continue to publish these reports going forward.