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Facebook Board Seeks More Transparency On Content Rules For High Profile Users

Facebook "failed to" and in others provided "incomplete" information about its content decisions related to high-profile users, an oversight board said Thursday.

Facebook  (FB) - Get Facebook, Inc. Class A Report shares edged higher Thursday after the social network's oversight board said the tech giant "had not been fully forthcoming" in its review of content decisions related to high-profile users.

The assessment followed a series of reports, including an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, that alleged Facebook allowed posts by high profile users that violate its policies to receive extra layers of review and potential for special treatment via a process called known as cross-check, or XCheck.

The oversight board itself is an independent body created by Facebook to ensure the accountability of its enforcement systems.

"The team within Facebook tasked with providing information has not been fully forthcoming on cross-check," co-chairs Catalina Botero-Marino, Jamal Greene, Michael McConnell and Helle Thorning-Schmidt said in a statement following the board's first quarterly transparency report. "On some occasions, Facebook failed to provide relevant information to the board, while in other instances, the information it did provide was incomplete."

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Facebook shares were marked 0.38% higher in late-morning trading Thursday to change hands at $342.02 each, but have fallen more than 10% since their early September peak amid a series of reports that challenged both its internal content rules and the alleged harm its Instagram app has caused to teenaged girls. 

Facebook did not mention the cross-check program when it asked the oversight board to review its decision to block former President Donald Trump from using its platform, an omission it described as "unacceptable". 

The board also said Facebook has admitted it should not have said that cross-check only applied to a “small number of decisions."

The board added that Facebook failed to provide meaningful transparency on “the rationale, standards and processes of [cross-check] review, including the criteria to determine which pages and accounts are selected for inclusion” to become a part of so-called high profile users.

Facebook answered 130 question out of 156 questions sent to the company through the end of June, the report noted. It partially answered 12 and declined to answer 14.

"For example, in several instances, Facebook declined to answer questions about the user’s previous behavior on Facebook, which the company claimed was irrelevant to the Board’s determination about the case in hand."