Twitter announced that it will now display new labels on government-affiliated media accounts, providing greater transparency about the information shared by accounts that are essentially government-moderated.
As Twitter explained:
When it comes to conversations with government and government-affiliated media on Twitter, we help make them more transparent. We will now use two different profile tags for these account types so that you can easily identify them and their tweets.
As you can see in the image above, these two options are “government account” for officials who represent the relevant government organizations, and “state-affiliated media” for media that are heavily controlled by a government agency.
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So what exactly is right for each category?
A government account tag will be added to the accounts of key government officials, including foreign ministers, institutional structures, ambassadors, officials, and key diplomatic leaders. At launch, this label will only be assigned to senior officials and organizations that are the official voice of the state abroad.
The label “State-affiliated media” will be attached to accounts “owned by state-owned media organizations, their editors-in-chief, and/or their senior staff.”
The state media label is likely to have the greatest impact. For example, many users will not be aware that the providers from whom they receive news are controlled by the state and therefore limited in what they can share and generally have a duty to promote the interests of that country in a positive light.
Having a prominent “ state-affiliated media ” label on their profiles and tweets could make more people think twice about sharing content from these providers – or at least raise more questions about what might be the motivation for news content that each of them shares.
Facebook introduced similar labels back in June as part of its ongoing efforts to improve transparency ahead of the U.S. presidential election.
Given that most people now get at least some of their news coverage from social media, and government-affiliated groups have a background in using social platforms to drive certain narratives, labels make a lot of sense and should help improve digital media literacy – or at least force users to question the motivation behind each message.
In addition to this, Twitter says it will no longer include government-related media accounts or their tweets in its recommendations, “including on home timeline, notifications, and searches.” Twitter says it’s part of its ongoing efforts to support a free and independent press.
Twitter will start by adding new labels for a specific group of countries, before expanding them to a wider range of organizations and individuals in the future.