To stem foreign influence during the US Presidential Election later this year, Facebook will block ads from state-controlled media outlets in the US, the company announced on June 4. The platform has also started labelling media outlets that are partially or wholly under the editorial control of their governments as such publishers “combine the influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state”. Later in the year, the company will also start labelling ads from these publishers in this manner.

RT, Russia Today

(From top to bottom): How state-controlled media label is shown on a Page; what hovering over ‘i’ icon displays; details shown in Page Transparency section; and how label is shown in Ads Library

These labels are visible in the Ad Library page view, on Pages and in the Page Transparency section. In the US, the label also appears in News Feed. Facebook distinguishes between “state-controlled” and “state-funded”. It is not enough for a government to fund a media agency, they must also exert editorial control over the publication for Facebook to label it. For instance, RT and Xinhua News Agency are labelled as state-controlled, but the BBC, Al Jazeera and Doordarshan have no labels. YouTube, on the other hand, labels RT, Xinhua News Agency as “partly or wholly owned by” their respective governments and labels BBC and Doordarshan as “public broadcasters”.

Russia Today, RT

The label on YouTube says “RT is funded in whole or in part by the Russian government” and links out to its Wikipedia page.

How does Facebook determine control over editorial content? By looking at the company’s mission statement, ownership structure, editorial guidelines, information about newsroom leadership and staff, sources of funding and revenue, and governance and accountability mechanisms.

What if an organisation is labelled incorrectly? They can submit an appeal with additional documentation for Facebook to review.

How did Facebook arrive at this definition of state-controlled media? The platform consulted with over 65 global experts including Reporters Without Borders, Center for International Media Assistance, European Journalism Center, Oxford Internet Institute, Center for Media, Data and Society (CMDS) at the Central European University, Council of Europe, UNESCO, Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), and SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition.