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Signage in front of the Facebook Inc. headquarters in Menlo Park, California, U.S., on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook has long said that it applies the same rules to all posts, but internal documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal paint a picture of a company that allowed millions of politicians, celebrities and other high-profile users to break those rules without consequence.

Why it matters: It's hard to limit misinformation on a platform when you give a free pass to those with the most reach.

Details: According to the Journal, Facebook's XCheck program, established to make sure that content reviews of posts by high-profile users were handled with extra care, often gave VIPs a free pass to violate the company's rules.

  • Some were "whitelisted" and allowed to post whatever they want.
  • For others, content issues were passed along to a separate team, which often failed to take action or sometimes even follow-up on reports.
  • By 2020, there were 5.8 million accounts included in the program, the Journal said.

Between the lines: A confidential internal review in 2019 found the practice was both widespread and "not publicly defensible," the Journal reported.

The other side: Facebook, for its part, told the Journal that criticism of the system was "fair" but added that the company is phasing out the practice of whitelisting.

  • "A lot of this internal material is outdated information stitched together to create a narrative that glosses over the most important point: Facebook itself identified the issues with cross check and has been working to address them," Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement to the Journal.

Go deeper

Dec 14, 2021 - Podcasts

Facebook’s year of failing upwards

Axios Re:Cap is revisiting some of this year’s biggest stories and what they say about where technology, business, politics and more are headed in 2022. 

Sara Fischer, author of Axios Media Trends, joins Axios Re:Cap senior producer Naomi Shavin to discuss why the Facebook Papers' news cycle was so bad for Facebook — and where its parent company, Meta, goes from here.

Updated 52 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump dogs “dull” DeSantis ahead of potential 2024 matchup

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Donald Trump is trashing Ron DeSantis in private as an ingrate with a "dull personality" and no realistic chance of beating him in a potential 2024 showdown, according to sources who've recently talked to the former president about the Florida governor.

Why it matters: The two are among the most popular Republicans in the country, and as the former president eyes another run in 2024, he's irked by DeSantis' popularity and refusal to rule out running against him.

Updated 53 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy.
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker