Facebook gives state-controlled media a label – and soon denies them ads

The social network begins by marking state-led media and also plans to prohibit advertising on the platform in the United States.

The largest social network in the world, Facebook, wants to better inform its users who is behind the news that is distributed on the platform. For this reason, media that are under state control will be given a unique label – even for posts in the feed. Facebook endeavors to inform users when media products are potentially created under the influence of a government. In this context, ads from state-controlled media should initially be marked as well and then even excluded in the USA.

Where Facebook places the labels

In a blog post, Facebook’s Head of Cybersecurity Policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, explains why the labels for the state-controlled media are introduced on the platform and how they are defined at all. He states that the marker, which starts this week, was decided a few months ago to increase transparency on the platform, especially in the context of the US election this year.

According to the same, the labels are displayed in the page view of the advertising library, in the individual pages and in the page transparency area of ​​the pages.

Facebook label for state-controlled medium in the advertising library, © Facebook
Facebook label for state-controlled medium in the advertising library, © Facebook

In addition, the labels in the USA are to be seen in the newsfeed from corresponding media posts from next week.

Facebook label for state-controlled media in the news feed.
Facebook label for state-controlled media in the news feed (click on the picture to get a larger view), © Facebook

The first ads from state-controlled media are to be marked by Facebook this summer as well as news posts. Gradually, various advertisements from such media will receive the new label. In particular, since the presidential elections in the U.S. are scheduled for November 2020, ads from media under state control on Facebook are even to be completely rejected soon. In this way, the platform wants to prevent the influence that was rumored for the presidential election four years ago.

Which criteria Facebook uses

In terms of transparency, Facebook shares the criteria that media define as controlled by the state. 65 experts from various organizations from all over the world, from the areas of human rights, media, governance and development, were consulted to develop these criteria. According to the same information in the post, the criteria go beyond purely financial support from a state. Relevant factors that Facebook takes into account include:

  • a mission statement, mandate and / or public reporting on how the organization defines and fulfills its journalistic mission
  • an ownership structure with information about owners, stakeholders, board members, management, government officials in management positions and the disclosure of direct or indirect property by companies or individuals who hold an elected position
  • editorial guidelines such as transparency regarding content sources as well as independence and variety of sources
  • Information on leadership and newsroom staff
  • Funding sources and revenue
  • (State) governance and accountability mechanisms such as corrective actions, complaints procedures, external assessments and supervisory bodies

A label will not be included if Facebook can lay down sufficient foundations that enable editorial independence. Publishers wishing to demonstrate this need to be able to:

  • Statutes in the country of origin of the medium that clearly protect the editorial independence of the organization
  • established procedures, processes and protective measures in the media organization to ensure editorial independence
  • an assessment by an independent, credible external organization that supports the fact that the statutes have been complied with and the procedures followed have been followed

Facebook also includes country-specific features – including the status of press freedom in different countries. Open source research from universities or leading experts is also considered to assess media.

Facebook provides an overview in the help area of ​​what is labeled as a state-controlled medium. Media that have been wrongly labeled may also lodge a complaint there. In the spirit of transparency, Facebook welcomes media feedback on the topic at all times. Labeling is definitely a step towards more transparency. However, it will also be of interest in this context to see which media Facebook will classify as state-controlled in the future and which not; and whether these assignments are always reliable.

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