Facebook has announced that it won't allow state-controlled media agencies the ability to buy advertisements in the United States. It also says it will label posts from foreign media agencies controlled by their governments. Think China's People's Daily or Iran's Tasnim news outlet, among dozen of others.
Why now? — Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, made the announcement on Thursday. It is likely that the move to label advertisements from state-managed media agencies outside of the United States is to provide transparency ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
"We’re providing greater transparency into these publishers because they combine the influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state, and we believe people should know if the news they read is coming from a publication that may be under the influence of a government," Gleicher wrote.
We've been here before — The cybersecurity head noted that state-controlled media agencies "rarely" relied on advertising in the United States. Still, the company intends to exercise "an abundance of caution" so as to preemptively tackle any foreign influence.
This move makes sense when you consider Facebook's rather grim record involving the 2016 presidential election. Dogged by the Cambridge Analytica scandal and endless accusations of Russian meddling alongside the fact that Mark Zuckerberg continues to sorely disappoint people with his philosophy on dangerous platform content, the social network has been trying to shed that negative reputation with such decisions. It's a different debate as to whether people trust these profound proclamations or roll their eyes at them.
Who's behind it? — The company says that it consulted with 65 analysts around the world in order to create a network policy that blends media accountability, governmental transparency, and a regard for human rights and development. Under a set of editorial checks, the company says that it will decide whether an agency's ad should be labeled or not. These factors include clarity around the outlet's mission statement, agency independence, diversity of sources, where it gets its funding and revenue from, and more. If a state-controlled media agency believes that it was unfairly labeled, it can appeal the process through an application. This application will be reviewed under the company's official guidelines.
Most importantly, will this help? — Zuckerberg, who seems to naively believe that life-endangering concepts can be debated in the marketplace of ideas, looks like he's attempting public image control with this decision. It's hard to believe in the efficiency of labeling a foreign ad while the CEO of the company continues to insist that disinformation and disturbing rhetoric should be allowed on his platform.
It's no wonder that his own employees are sick and tired of him. In simple terms, this announcement from Gleicher most likely won't fix the mess Zuckerberg has created.