Facebook finally delivers on its promise to label ‘state-controlled’ media

It plans to label ads from those outlets, too.


Roughly eight months after Facebook said it would begin labeling state-backed media, it’s finally applying those labels. Beginning today, Facebook will label media outlets that are wholly or partially under the editorial control of their government.

The labels will appear in the Ad Library Page, on Pages and in the Page Transparency section. Users in the US will begin to see them on posts in News Feed, too.

Facebook also plans to label ads from state-controlled media outlets. In the US, Facebook will block such ads altogether “out of an “abundance of caution” -- even though it admits they rarely appear. That’s part of an attempt to protect elections in 2020 from foreign influence, Facebook says.

Facebook claims it worked with more than 65 experts on media, governance and human rights to determine what makes a media outlet “state-controlled.” It looks at each outlet’s mission statement, ownership structure, editorial guidelines, funding and more. It also considers whether organizations have measures in place to protect editorial independence.

Facebook did not say why it took so much longer to apply the labels than expected, but it may have had something to do with the fact that different state-backed media outlets have different levels of control. For instance, Russia’s RT and China’s Xinhua have been used to spread propaganda, but the UK’s BBC and Canada’s CBC maintain more distance from their respective governments.

While Facebook did not say which media outlets it will label, Qatar’s Al Jazeera previously spoke out against the labels. The outlet is privately owned but has a member of the Qatari royal family as a board chairman. Al Jazeera said Facebook would cause “irreparable harm” if it applied the state-backed label.

Facebook says organizations can submit an appeal if they believe the label is applied in error and that it will continue to refine its approach moving forward.