Facebook Placing Labels on Chinese, Russian State Media Amid Concerns Over Foreign Influence

June 4, 2020 Updated: June 4, 2020

Facebook said June 4 it would start labeling state-controlled media outlets on its platform amid intensifying concern over foreign actors using social media to shift public opinion to advance their own agendas.

The company said it would start labeling Facebook pages of state-run outlets, and from next week would start labeling posts from such outlets for users in the United States. The move would apply to Chinese state-run media such as Xinhua News, People’s Daily, and China Global Television Network (CGTN), and Russian state-owned outlets including Russia Today, and Sputnik.

Later this summer, it will also start blocking these outlets from buying ads in the United States “to provide an extra layer of protection” against foreign influence ahead of the upcoming presidential elections, Facebook said, without detailing exactly when this will occur.

On its global platform, Facebook will also start labeling ads from state-controlled outlets later this summer.

“We’re providing greater transparency into these publishers because they combine the influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said in a statement.

The move comes after increasing scrutiny on Beijing’s efforts to use Western social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to spread propaganda and disinformation during the pandemic, and most recently on the race-related unrest across America. Observers say the regime is taking advantage of the crisis and deliberately stoking racial tensions to undermine the United States and the model of democratic governance that it represents.

Earlier in the year, ads from Chinese state media including Global Times, Xinhua, China Central Television (CCTV), and CGTN, attacking President Donald Trump’s handling of the outbreak drew millions of views. These outlets also used hashtags “#Trumpandemic” and “#TrumpVirus” in its Facebook and Twitter posts.

Last August, Twitter and Facebook uncovered vast Chinese state-backed influence campaigns on their platforms aimed at undermining the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. YouTube also identified a similar coordinated influence operation around the Hong Kong protests.

In response, Twitter banned state-controlled media from advertising on the platform, YouTube expanded labeling of state-backed media outlets in the region.

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