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Facebook Will Begin Labeling Posts From State-Controlled Media

The social network also said it will start blocking some ads in the US starting later this summer.

Last updated on June 5, 2020, at 9:51 a.m. ET

Posted on June 4, 2020, at 1:52 p.m. ET

Johannes Simon / Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook will label pages, posts, and ads from some state-controlled media outlets as "partially or wholly under the editorial control of a state," the company said on Thursday as it comes under pressure to control state-led propaganda campaigns that aim to influence the upcoming US presidential election.

RT and Sputnik will be among those news outlets that will be labeled, along with Chinese state broadcaster CCTV and the Xinhua News Agency.

“We’re providing greater transparency into these publishers because they combine the influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state, and we believe people should know if the news they read is coming from a publication that may be under the influence of a government,” the company said on its website.

Facebook also said it would start blocking ads from state-controlled media outlets in the US starting later this summer “out of an abundance of caution.” The move comes three years after rival platform Twitter banned ads from Russian-backed outlets RT and Sputnik.

Facebook first indicated it planned to use the labels last October.

The company said it will factor in both financial and editorial control of a news outlet, as well as “country-specific factors,” such as the level of press freedom.

This suggests Facebook heard the complaints of some organizations, like Al Jazeera, which protested the potential application of the label. Al Jazeera is backed by the government of Qatar but maintains it has editorial independence.

RT criticized the decision by Facebook as "censorship."

“A US company long in bed with the US establishment, telling the entire rest of the world what it can and cannot say, is the definition of a technological dictatorship," RT said.

Organizations have the ability to appeal their label.

Facebook’s announcement comes during a week when the company has come under fire for leaving up a post from President Donald Trump that said, in relation to protests against police brutality, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

Twitter attached a warning label to the post, saying it violated a rule against glorifying violence. Facebook chose not to take down the post or apply a similar label, although it also bans calls for violence on its platform.

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