Following in the footsteps of YouTube in 2018 and Facebook earlier this year, Twitter will be labeling government officials and state-affiliated media entities, including their editors-in-chief, and senior staff members.
For now, Twitter will be focusing mainly on senior government officials “who are the official voice of the nation state abroad,” but they will be labelling including foreign ministers, institutional entities, ambassadors, official spokespeople, and key diplomatic leaders. The labels will only apply to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the USA, the UK, China, France and Russia – but Twitter are planning to expand this policy to a wider range of countries in the future. This does not include the accounts of heads of state, as Twitter believes they already benefit from widespread name recognition, media attention, and public awareness.
When it comes to state-affiliated media, only companies whose editorial content is controlled to some extent by the state will be labelled, so state-funded corporations with full editorial independence, like the UK’s BBC and NPR in the US, won’t be labelled. Twitter believes that “people have the right to know when a media account is affiliated directly or indirectly with a state actor,” since these publications often use their news coverage to “advance a political agenda”.
YouTube and Facebook have already taken these precautions, but Twitter is taking it one step further by making the decision not to amplify state-affiliated media accounts on the home timeline, notifications and search (but this doesn’t apply to government official accounts).
On a company blog announcing the update, Twitter stated: “Our mission is to serve the public conversation and an important part of that work is providing people with context so they can make informed decisions about what they see and how they engage on Twitter.
“Twitter provides an unmatched way to connect with, and directly speak to public officials and representatives.
“This direct line of communication with leaders and officials has helped to democratize political discourse and increase transparency and accountability. We also took steps to protect that discourse because we believe political reach should be earned not bought”.