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Facebook restricts news outlets connected to political entities

Facebook is banning US news outlets with ‘direct meaningful ties’ to political groups from its News tab, as well as claiming news exemptions from the site’s advertising rules. 

These publishers are now required to undergo an authorization process and have a ‘Paid for by’ disclaimer when running ads about social issues, elections or politics. 

Such organizations retain the privilege to register as a news organization and advertising, but will no longer be listed in Facebook’s News tab.

The move is to, according to the firm, ensure these outlets are held to the same standard as political groups.

‘As we head into election season in the U.S., we recognize that there are a growing number of news publications that are connected with different types of political entities, including political parties, PACs, politicians, and other organizations that can primarily engage in the influence of public policy or election,’ Facebook shared in the announcement.

The policy also eliminates these outlets’ access to news messaging on Facebook’s Messenger Business Platform and the WhatsApp business API.

Since the 2016 presidential election, there have been more than 1,200 instances in which political groups masqueraded as a news site to push their views on Americans who believed it was straight news, according to AXIOS which first broke the news on the policy.

Now, without the ability to claim ‘news exemption’ from the site’s ad rules, these politically affiliated organizations will be labeled as such – allowing the public to see they are ingesting content paid for by or affiliated to a third-party. 

Facebook notes that identifying politically connected publishers is a new process for the firm, but has laid out what it feels meets the criteria.

This includes being owned by a political group or individual, along with a political person who sits in an executive position at a company and state-controlled media.

However, news publishers can be completely banned from advertising if they repeatedly share misinformation.

Politically affiliated news outlets have been in existence since 2014, but became popular in 2018 ahead of the midterm election.

Just last year, ACRONYM, a progressive non-profit, invested one million dollars in The Dogwood, a news outlet in Virginia.

ACRONYM has also pumped funds into Courier Newsroom, which positions itself as ‘producing original reporting to help people understand the issues that matter to them.’

Facebook’s move comes after Twitter banned all political advertising earlier this year.

The Jack Dorsey owned firm recently added labels marking the tweets and accounts of ‘state-backed media’ as well as official government entities, in a move it says will ‘increase transparency and accountability.’

The new steps to prevent the spread of content from state-affiliated media used to advance a government’s political agenda — a move affecting key outlets from Russia and China.

Official government accounts, such as the White House, and key government officials tasked with communicating foreign policy abroad will also receive the labels.

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