Labels on state controlled media from Russian, China and others will be placed by Facebook

Facebook Inc said that it will start labeling media organizations that are that are state controlled by governments such as in Russia, China and other countries and will start blocking any advertisements from these media outlets that are targeted at users of the largest social media platform n eh United States later this year.

According to a partial list of the targeted state controlled media that Facebook has provided, it includes labeling Russia’s Sputnik, Iran’s Press TV and China’s Xinhua News. At the beginning, the label will be applied to about 200 pages by Facebook.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said in an interview that the company has determined that those news outlets that are controlled by the government in the United States have editorial independence and hence this measure of labeling will not be applied to any US-based news organizations.

Since 2016, when Facebook was severely criticized for its failure of being able to prevent use of its platform by Russian entities to influence the US presidential election, the largest social media platform has increased its measures of defenses and has implemented greater transparency requirements by users for running pages and ads on the various social media platforms owned by the company.

The announcement for the creation of labeling state owned and controlled media last year but it is introducing the measure now after criticism about the lackadaisical approach at addressing the posting of misleading and racially charged posts by the US President Donald Trump.

The timing of this new measure is also interesting as the US presidential election is slated to happen in November this year.

There will however be no labeling of media outlets on the platform that are affiliated with individual political figures or parties, the company said which could push “boundaries that are very, very slippery”, according to Gleicher. “What we want to do here is start with the most critical case,” he said.

Obstacles for media agencies should not be created by social media companies on a selective basis, said the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang during a daily briefing in Beijing on Friday. “We hope that the relevant social media platform can put aside the ideological bias and hold an open and accepting attitude towards each country’s media role,” he said.

However this is not the first occasion that such a measure has been taken by a social media company.

Starting in 2018, video channels that predominantly carry news items and are funded by governments were labeled by YouTube, owned by Alphabet Inc’s Google. However there has been some criticism of YouTube over its inability to label some state news outlets and thereby allowing such media to generate revenues from videos that allegedly spread misinformation and propaganda.

The labeling of the pages of state controlled media will be done globally as well as on News Feed posts within the United States, Facebook has said in a blog post.

Prior to the November presidential election, US-targeted ads from state-controlled entities “out of an abundance of caution” will also be banned, Facebook said. For the rest of the world, such ads will receive a label.

(Adapted from Reuters.com)

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