Protocol | Policy

'Not acceptable': Facebook Oversight Board will review cross-check system

The board is taking Facebook up on a request to review its system for vetting posts by high-profile users, which drew scrutiny after recent reporting in the Wall Street Journal.

The Facebook app icon displayed on a smartphone

Facebook's Oversight Board shared its first transparency reports.

Photo by Brett Jordan/Unsplash

Facebook's Oversight Board said Thursday that the company's failure to be transparent about the two-track system it uses to vet posts by high-profile users — known internally as "cross-check" — was "not acceptable." The board agreed to take Facebook up on its request to review the policy and issue guidance on how Facebook should deal with content violations by prominent users.

The board condemned Facebook's lack of transparency and announced this decision as part of its first quarterly transparency reports, which cover the period from October 2020 to the end of June 2021. During that time, the board was reviewing Facebook's decision to ban former President Donald Trump from the platform.

"When Facebook referred the case related to former US President Trump to the board, it did not mention the cross-check system," the board wrote in its report. "Given that the referral included a specific policy question about account-level enforcement for political leaders, many of whom the board believes were covered by crosscheck, this omission is not acceptable."

Facebook's cross-check system drew scrutiny after a Wall Street Journal exposé based on whistleblower Frances Haugen's disclosures illustrated how the company was giving some of its most famous users more leeway on content violations. The board will now assess Facebook's criteria for who makes it into that system, as well as how to ensure it is fair, objective and transparent.

"Facebook has also agreed that, from now on, it commits to provide information about the wider context which may be relevant to the board's case decisions," the report read. "This should give a fuller understanding of the work Facebook has already done on a given topic."

The board shared additional data on its work so far, which reveals limitations to the board's international reach abroad and a hyper-focus on the outcome of the Trump case in the board's early days. Of the roughly half-million appeals the board received between October and the end of June, just under 46% came from the U.S. and Canada, with another 21.8% of appeals coming from Europe. These stats mirror, in some ways, concerns about Facebook's own fixation on North American and European countries.

"We do not believe this represents the actual distribution of Facebook content issues around the globe," the board wrote. "If anything, we have reason to believe that users in Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East experience more, not fewer, problems with Facebook than parts of the world with more appeals."

The board said it's working to expand its reach in other parts of the world and encouraged "users and civil society organizations" to bring their concerns to the board.

The report also shows that the overwhelming majority of comments the board received were related to its decision (or lack thereof) regarding Trump's account. The board received 9,842 public comments overall, a whopping 9,666 of which were related to Trump. At the time, the board pushed the decision back on to Facebook, which decided to continue Trump's suspension until at least 2023.

Protocol | Workplace

Pay audits catch your salary mistakes. Here's how to conduct one.

It’s not unlawful to pay people differently. You just have to be able to justify the difference.

Pay audits reveal the truth about how you’re paying employees.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

This story is part of our Salary Series, where we take a deep dive into the world of pay: how it's set, how it's changing and what's next. Read the rest of the series.

In 2015, Marc Benioff famously signed off on a salary review of every employee at Salesforce on the urging of then-Chief People Officer Cindy Robbins and another senior woman executive, Leyla Seka. They suspected that women employees at the company were being paid less than men for the same work.

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Michelle Ma

Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol, where she writes about management, leadership and workplace issues in tech. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.

The fintech developers who made mobile banking as routine as texting or online shopping aren't done. The next frontier for innovation is open banking – fintech builders are enabling consumers to be at the center of where and how their data is used to provide the services they want and need.

Most people don't even realize they're using open banking services today. If they connected their investment and banking accounts in a personal financial management solution or app, they're using open banking. Perhaps they've seen ads about how they can improve their credit score by uploading pay stubs or utility records to that same app – this is also powered by open banking.

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Bob Schukai
Bob Schukai is Executive Vice President of Technology Development, New Digital Infrastructure & Fintech at Mastercard, where he leads the technical design, execution and support of innovative open banking and fintech solutions, as well as next generation technologies to support global payment and data capabilities. Prior to Mastercard, Schukai’s work focused on cognitive computing, financial technology, blockchain, user experience and digital identity. He is also a member of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Protocol | China

Chinese ed-tech firms’ poignant pivots

Beijing’s tutoring ban has forced ed tech and private tuition companies to explore new opportunities, from clothing to coffee to agriculture.

Some Chinese online tutoring firms are pivoting away from education. Others continue offering classes, but a different kind.

Photo: Liu Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Management at China’s leading tutoring and ed-tech firms has been racking brains in an effort to pivot away from the once-lucrative but now moribund K-9 tutoring business. Pivoting has become a necessity ever since Beijing delivered a devastating blow to the private tutoring industry this past summer by banning many types of after-school tutoring outright.

The Wall Street Journal in November reported that several major Chinese tutoring and ed-tech companies were in discussions with China's government to resume K-9 tutoring, under the condition they run their businesses as nonprofits. But some companies have decided to sever their K-9 operations altogether, exploring completely different businesses: agriculture ecommerce, garment-making and even coffee houses. Others will stay in the business of teaching but place their bets on professional education and “well-rounded education”(素质教育), which is not schoolwork-oriented and instead involves extracurricular activities such as arts, sports, science, technology, engineering and civics.

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Shen Lu

Shen Lu is a reporter with Protocol | China. Her writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times and POLITICO, among other publications. She can be reached at shenlu@protocol.com, or via Twitter @shenlulushen.

Protocol | Workplace

Calendly thinks it can save you from group meeting scheduling hell

Add another tool to your arsenal for that 15-person, multi-time zone meeting you need to schedule.

Calendly now offers meeting polls.

Image: Calendly

Scheduling a one-on-one meeting over email requires its own multi-email song and dance. But scheduling a meeting for seven people over email is a full-blown nightmare. Add in multiple time zones and incomplete email responses, and you’re deep in a distressingly long email thread. So far, scheduling app Calendly has tackled one-on-one scenarios: The host sends a Calendly link and the invitee chooses the time slot that works for them. Group meetings were still a hassle, despite a few features allowing for round robins or multihost meetings. With the company’s Thursday launch of meeting polls, Calendly joins tools like Doodle and When2meet in solving group scheduling nightmares.

Srinivas Somayajula, Calendly's head of Product Operations, hopes that new and existing users will recognize Calendly as a tool for both the one-on-one use case and complex group scheduling. “We've got the capabilities in the toolset to support either of those extremes and everything in the middle,” Somayajula said.

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Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Protocol | Workplace

CTO to CEO: The case for putting the tech expert in charge

Parag Agrawal is one of the few tech industry CTOs to nab the top job. But the tides may be shifting.

Parag Agrawal’s appointment to Twitter's CEO seat is already alerting a new generation of CTOs that the top job may not be so out of reach.

Photo: Twitter

Parag Agrawal’s ascension to CEO of Twitter is notable for a few reasons. For one, at 37, he’s now the youngest CEO of an S&P 500 company, beating out Mark Zuckerberg. For another, his path to the top as a CTO-turned-CEO is still relatively rare in the corporate world.

His leap suggests that CEO succession trends may be shifting, as technology increasingly takes the center stage in business and strategy decisions not just for tech companies, but for the business world more broadly.

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Michelle Ma

Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol, where she writes about management, leadership and workplace issues in tech. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.

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