Facebook starts adding labels to 'state-controlled media' and will ban them from running ads in the US ahead of the 2020 election

Facebook is adding labels to state-run media accounts.Facebook
  • Facebook said Thursday that it has started adding labels to state-run media outlets.
  • The labels, which the company originally announced last October, will be applied to outlets "wholly or partially under the editorial control of their government."
  • Facebook also said it plans to ban these publishers from running ads in the US starting later this summer in an attempt to prevent foreign meddling in the 2020 elections.
  • Facebook's policies surrounding misinformation and political ads have come under intense scrutiny in recent months from critics who say the platform isn't doing enough to curb the spread of election-related propaganda.

Facebook has started to apply labels to state-run media outlets — news publishers it deems "wholly or partially under the editorial control of their government" — the company said in a blog post 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 company said, "because they combine the influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state."

Facebook originally announced its plans to identify state-run media back in October 2019, but offered more details about its policy Thursday.Advertisement

The company it had officially begun the process of adding the labels, which will start appearing this week in its "Ad Library Page view, on Pages, and in the Page Transparency section" for all users and on News Feed posts for US users.

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Facebook's criteria for determining whether a media outlet is state-run will include: the outlet's mission statement, whether its owners or leaders are government officials or appointees, its editorial guidelines, information about the outlet's staff, funding sources, accountability mechanisms, and country-specific factors like press freedom.
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Publishers are allowed to appeal Facebook's decision, but the company said they'll need to point to laws, internal processes, or external assessments from a credible, independent organization that demonstrate their editorial independence.

Facebook also said Thursday that, starting later this summer, state-run media outlets will be blocked from running ads in the US. While such publishers rarely advertise in the US, the company said the decision was made "out of an abundance of caution to provide an extra layer of protection against various types of foreign influence in the public debate ahead of the November 2020 election in the US."Advertisement

Facebook has faced pushback for its policy around political ads, which bans profanity but exempts them from its third-party fact-checking program, and the company has long been criticized for its role in allowing misinformation to spread ahead of the 2016 election.

In January, Facebook announced a tool that reduced the level of precision with which advertisers can target users, and also put the burden on users to tell the company if they want to see fewer political ads. More recently, Facebook has become embroiled in controversy after its decision not to take any action against posts by President Trump that spread false information about voting by mail and warned of "shooting" protesters.

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