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Facebook to Apply Labels to Government-Sponsored Media

Media posts on the social network that the company deems to have been sponsored or influenced by a government will soon have a label put on them.
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Facebook  (FB) - Get Facebook, Inc. Class A Report announced Wednesday that it will start applying labels to media outlets that are wholly or partially under editorial control of their government. 

The company says that the labels will provide "greater transparency" into those publishers "because they combine the influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state."

To help craft its policy criteria, Facebook said it consulted with 65 experts around the world who specialize in media, governance, and human rights and development. 

Those experts helped the company understand that there are numerous ways governments can exert editorial control over media entities, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, wrote in a blog post.

We know that governments continue to use funding mechanisms to control media, but this alone doesn’t tell the full story. That’s why our definition of state-controlled media extends beyond just assessing financial control or ownership and includes an assessment of editorial control exerted by a government.

The company posted a partial checklist of the things it looks for to determine whether a government has editorial influence over a news organization, including:

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  • Mission statement, mandate or public reporting
  • Ownership structure
  • Editorial guidelines
  • Information about newsroom leadership and staff
  • Sources of funding and revenue
  • Governance and accountability mechanisms 

Gleicher also wrote that Facebook will begin labeling ads from these publishers later this year, and block them completely this summer ahead of the November 2020 elections in the U.S. "out of an abundance of caution."

Facebook's latest moves comes about a week after Zuckerberg told Fox News that the company "shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online."

It also comes during a week when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has faced much internal criticism about the company's decision to not fact-check nor apply labels to President Trump's posts on the social network.

On Wednesday, an open letter from over 30 individuals who used to work at the company in its early years stated that the group felt that the decision was a "betrayal" of Facebook's ideals and urged Zuckerberg to reconsider.

Facebook shares fell 1.5% Thursday afternoon.