Facebook to label state-controlled media on the platform

Facebook state-controlled media

In order to expand transparency ahead of the 2020 US Elections, Facebook will start labelling state-controlled media on the platform.

In order to keep political conversations transparent on the platform, Facebook will now apply labels to media outlets that are either wholly or partially under the editorial control of their government. The platform believes this will help provide greater transparency into state-controlled media publishers for they combine the influence of a media organisation with the strategic backing of a state.

“We believe people should know if the news they read is coming from a publication that may be under the influencer of a government,” the platform states. Later this year, Facebook plans to start labelling ads from these publishers to add another layer of transparency to paid content.

The labels will appear globally in the Ad Library Page view, on Pages, and in the Page Transparency section. In the US, the label will also start to appear on posts in News Feed over the course of the next week. 

Over 65 experts around the world specializing in media, governance, and human rights and development were consulted by Facebook while working on the policy criteria. “The input we received from these organizations was crucial to understanding the different ways and degrees to which governments exert editorial control over media entities,” says the platform.

Based on these consultations and research, Facebook has come up with a list of factors that may indicate editorial control by a government, including: 

  • Mission statement, mandate, and/or public reporting on how the organization defines and accomplishes its journalistic mission
  • Ownership structure such as information on owners, stakeholders, board members, management, government appointees in leadership positions, and disclosure of direct or indirect ownership by entities or individuals holding elected office
  • Editorial guidelines such as transparency around sources of content and independence and diversity of sources
  • Information about newsroom leadership and staff
  • Sources of funding and revenue
  • Governance and accountability mechanisms such as correctional policies, a procedure for complaints, external assessments and oversight boards

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If Facebook determines that there are enough protections in place to ensure editorial independence, the label will not be applied. However, publishers looking to prove their independence must be able to demonstrate at least: 

  • A statute in the host country that clearly protects the editorial independence of the organization
  • Established procedures, processes, and protections at the media organization to ensure editorial independence 
  • An assessment by an independent, credible, external organization finding that the statute has in fact been complied with and established procedures have been followed

Country-specific factors, including press freedom, will also be considered. If any organisation believes they have labelled in error, they will have the option to submit an appeal with additional documentation.