Facebook to label state-owned media outlets’ posts, pages, and ads

Facebook is rolling out new labels that identify all posts, pages, and ads published by media outlets that are partially or wholly controlled by their governments.

The label will initially appear on Facebook’s ad library pages, on media outlets’ individual pages, and in the page transparency section of the site. Facebook plans to start applying the labels to posts on its News Feed over the next week and to ads later this summer.

“We’re providing greater transparency into these publishers because they combine the influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state,” Nathan Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, wrote in blog post on Thursday. “We believe people should know if the news they read is coming from a publication that may be under the influence of a government.”

The news comes as Facebook tries to crack down on misinformation, better police coordinated efforts to spread disinformation, and provide more transparency about who’s posting and buying ads on its service. Facebook has grappled with how to handle international state actor and media groups, especially when they call for violence. 

And that struggle has now extended to the U.S. and fueled a heated battle between President Donald Trump, who recently signed an executive order aimed at removing legal protection for social media companies, and social media companies, some of which have been flagging or halting the promotion of his posts. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent decision to leave up inflammatory comments from Trump caused widespread criticism and angered the company’s employees. 

Before applying its new state-owned media label, Facebook said it will evaluate outlets based on several factors including its ownership structure, sources of funding and revenue, and transparency around sources of content and independence. Facebook said that publishers aiming to prove their independence must be able to show that a statute in their country protects their editorial independence, that they have procedures and protections at the company to ensure independence, and that they have been assessed by a credible third-party organization. 

Companies labeled as state-owned media can also file an appeal if they disagree with the decision. In their appeal, they will be allowed to provide additional documentation and will be reevaluated.

Zuckerberg recently said that Facebook is constantly working to develop its policies to better manage situations in the U.S. and beyond, according to an audio transcript of a recent all-hands meeting obtained by Vox. At the meeting, Zuckerberg spent much of his time explaining his decision to leave up recent comments Trump had posted, one of which said, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Ultimately Zuckerberg chose to do nothing, saying that the company only removes posts that incite violence. 

But at the meeting, Zuckerberg acknowledged the controversy around that decision and said it might be time to revisit some policies given the current unrest in the U.S. regarding racial injustice. “The excessive use of police force is unfortunately not a new reality,” he said, according to the transcript. “And something that our policies should probably—is something that I want to make sure we have another think on.”

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