On Thursday, Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said that users of the social media platform need to be informed about where their news is coming from. For that reason, he said, the platform will soon be attaching labels to posts that come from media outlets that are controlled by governments.
“The concern for us is state media combines the agenda setting power of a media entity with the strategic backing of a state,” Gleicher said.
He cited the recent George Floyd protests as an example of coverage that could be clouded by articles from a state-controlled source, possibly using Facebook in order to push its own agenda.
“If you’re reading coverage of a protest, it’s really important you know who is writing that coverage and what motivation they have. The goal of this is to ensure the public will see and understand who is behind it,” he said.
Even more specifically, CNN writer Hadas Gold pointed to coverage of the protests in Hong Kong as described in the Chinese media. The Chinese government, via its media arm, the Xinhua news agency, has used Facebook to post articles questioning why some American officials praise Hong Kong protesters while criticizing U.S. ones.
Other labels will appear on posts from the Russian English-language news agencies Russia Today and Sputnik.
Gleicher said his team consulted with experts to create guidelines for determining what counts as state-controlled media. Those guidelines include looking at where the media outlet’s funding comes from, its editorial transparency, and third-party confirmation of its independence, among other factors.
Not all state-owned media companies will necessarily be given warning notices. For example, some state-funded media companies could be deemed independent and thus not given the warning label.
Further, the list of agencies that will get the warning label will be “dynamic,” Gleicher said, meaning it can change over time. A state-owned news agency could also appeal a decision once it has been deemed not-independent.
The warning labels will start appearing in the U.S. next week. Xinhau, Russia Today, and Sputnik will all get the labels immediately, with others expected to get it in the near future.
In another move, Facebook will start banning advertisements from foreign state-controlled media later this summer. This is intended to, among other things, limit any foreign interference in the U.S. election this November.