Facebook To Start Labeling State-Controlled Media Ahead of US Elections


Facebook (FB) has announced that it is now starting to label media outlets that are wholly or partially under the editorial control of their government.

“People should know if the news they read is coming from a publication that may be under the influence of a government” stated Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of FB’s Cybersecurity Policy.

“And to ensure we’re equally transparent when it comes to paid content from these publishers, we will begin labeling ads from these publishers later this year” he continued.

State-controlled media outlets rarely advertise in the US, says FB, but starting later this summer the social media giant will begin blocking ads from these outlets in the US.

FB hopes that this new move will provide extra protection against foreign influence in the public debate ahead of the November 2020 election in the US.

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.

Notably, Facebook’s definition of state-controlled media extends beyond financial control or ownership and includes an assessment of editorial control exerted by a government.

At the same time, the company will also consider country-specific factors, including press freedom as well as consulting with open-source research from academics and leading experts.

Facebook has so far refused to follow Twitter’s (TWTR) footsteps by implementing fact-check warnings on posts from President Trump. On June 3 over 30 former Facebook employees penned an open letter stating, “Facebook’s leadership must reconsider their policies regarding political speech, beginning by fact-checking politicians and explicitly labeling harmful posts.”

Shares in Facebook have so far climbed 10% year-to-date, and analysts have a bullish Strong Buy consensus on the stock’s outlook. In the last three months, FB has received 31 buy ratings vs just 4 hold ratings. Meanwhile the average analyst price target stands at $243 (7% upside potential).

“We anticipate an uptick in social media usage around the elections, and would expect company content policies to adjust to legislative direction, which Facebook has welcomed in recent year” commented Merrill Lynch’s Justin Post as he reiterated his FB buy rating on May 28. (See Facebook stock analysis on TipRanks).

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