Millions of well-known Facebook users wouldn't have to follow the rules the platform says it enforces for all users.

This includes athletes, actors, politicians and journalists, business newspaper

The Wall Street Journal


on Tuesday based on internal documents from the social media company.

A total of 5.8 million accounts fell under a program called XCheck (cross check).

This created an invisible elite among the small 3 billion users of the social network.

In order to maintain the system, according to the American newspaper, Facebook has misled the supervisory board, which the company had set up to see how it enforces its rules.

An example of a person who received preferential treatment is footballer Neymar.

In 2019, the Brazilian was able to post nude photos on Facebook of a woman who had accused him of rape.

Nude photos are always prohibited under Facebook's rules.

Other accounts on the protected list were able to post content that had previously been flagged as incorrect by Facebook's fact-checkers.

For example, they could accuse Hillary Clinton of protecting groups of pedophiles and claim about then-President Donald Trump that he would have called all refugees "beasts".

In 2019, Facebook already examined the practices internally.

This showed that users on the protected list were regularly favored.

At the time, the internal audit called this "not defendable in public".

Facebook denies having given preferential treatment to certain users. According to a spokesperson, the criticism of XCheck was appropriate, but the platform is in the process of phasing out the system of protected users. Facebook also denies having misled its supervisory board.