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August 7, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:29am

Twitter labels ‘state-affiliated’ news outlets and journalists amid concerns over Russian and Chinese government influence

By William Turvill

Twitter has started flagging up “state-affiliated” media and journalists to let users know where governments may exercise control over editorial content.

Russia’s RT and Sputnik are among the first to have been labelled, in addition to China Xinhua News.

“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 a blog explaining its actions.

The social media giant also said it would no longer “amplify state-affiliated media accounts or their tweets through our recommendation systems including on the home timeline, notifications, and search”.

Twitter stated that news groups that are state-financed, but editorially independent – like the BBC in the UK and NPR in the US – would not be affected.

The blog said: “State-affiliated media is defined as outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution.

“Unlike independent media, state-affiliated media frequently use their news coverage as a means to advance a political agenda.”

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Twitter said that journalists linked to state-affiliated media would also be labelled. For example, as well as @RT_com being flagged as “Russia state-affiliated media”, its editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan’s Russian-language account also carries the label.

Twitter also announced that it would be adding labels to the Twitter accounts of government officials including @10DowningStreet and @WhiteHouse. These accounts will not be affected by affected by the recommendation system changes being imposed on state-affiliated media.

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