Twitter labels state media, government officials' accounts

08/06/2020 | 05:08pm

Twitter Inc will label the accounts of state-affiliated media outlets, their senior staff and some key government officials, the company said in a blog post on Thursday.

The accounts of Russia's Sputnik, RT, and China's Xinhua News are among the media organizations that will be labeled, according to a Twitter spokesman. He declined to provide a full list of entities.

"We believe that people have the right to know when a media account is affiliated directly or indirectly with a state actor," Twitter said in its blog. It will also stop amplifying these accounts or their tweets through its recommendation systems.

The social media company defined state-affiliated media as those where the state exercises editorial control through financial resources or political pressure, or control over production and distribution.

Twitter said that state-financed media outlets with editorial independence, such as National Public Radio in the United States, or the BBC in the United Kingdom, would not be labeled. A spokesman also confirmed there were no U.S. media outlets on the list.

NPR receives minimal government funding.

Russia's deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy posted on Twitter: "They think they can set the rules of the game! This is an illusion. Such clear double standards backfire and undermine credibility of Western media, with 'state-affiliate' labels or without. People can't find truth and facts there anymore."

Twitter said it was focusing its government official labels on senior officials and entities that represent the voice of the state abroad, such as foreign ministers, official spokespeople and institutional entities. Labeled accounts will include @WhiteHouse, @StateDept, @Elysee, @10DowningStreet and @KremlinRussia.

The labels will at first be applied only to the officials from countries that are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: China, France, Russia, Britain, and the United States. Twitter said the personal accounts of heads of states will not be labeled as there is public awareness of those individuals.

Twitter currently labels the accounts of candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives, Senate or governor during the 2020 election cycle.

Facebook Inc also said in June that it would start labeling state-controlled media organizations. In 2019, Twitter banned state-backed media advertising. [https://bit.ly/3fzkryL]

By Elizabeth Culliford

© Thomson Reuters 2020
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