Facebook will start labelling Russian, Chinese and other state-controlled media organisations, and later this summer will block any ads from such outlets that target U.S. users, it said on Thursday.
The world’s biggest social networking giant will apply the label to Russia’s Sputnik, Iran’s Press TV and China’s Xinhua News, according to a partial list released by the Facebook. The company will apply the label to about 200 pages at the outset.
Facebook will not label any U.S.-based news organisations, as it firmly believes that at least U.S. government-run outlets have editorial independence, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said in an interview.
Facebook, which has acknowledged its failure to stop Russian use of its platforms to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, has since shored up its defences and imposed greater transparency requirements for pages and ads on its platforms.
The company announced plans last year to create a state media label, but is introducing the tool amid a deep crisis over its hands-off treatment of misleading and racially charged posts by U.S. President Donald Trump.
The new measure comes just months ahead of the November U.S. presidential election.
Under the measure, Facebook will not use the label for media outlets affiliated with individual political figures or parties, which Gleicher said could push “boundaries that are very, very slippery.”
“What we want to do here is start with the most critical case,” he said.
Facebook is not the first company to take such action. YouTube, owned by Alphabet Inc’s Google, in 2018 started identifying video channels that predominantly carry news items and are funded by governments. But many critics believe that YouTube has failed to label some state news outlets, allowing them to earn ad revenue from videos with misinformation and propaganda.
In a blog post, Facebook said its label will appear on pages globally, as well as on News Feed posts within the United States.
Facebook also said it will ban U.S.-targeted ads from state-controlled entities “out of an abundance of caution” ahead of the November presidential election. Elsewhere, the ads will receive a label.
By Vivek Badoni
Member, Reporters’ Committee