Facebooks plan to label state media is taking longer than expected

The obstacle, you might envision, is that different state-backed media companies have various levels of control. Outlets like Russia‘s RT and China’s Xinhua are more directly managed by their host countries and typically work as propaganda outlets, however others like the UK’s BBC and Canada’s CBC are kept at arm’s length from their particular federal governments. There’s a threat that identifying them all the exact same way would gloss over distinctions in editorial independence.

That possible lack of distinctions has actually currently resulted in objections. Qatar’s Al Jazeera, which is technically independently owned but has a member of the Qatari royal household as a board chairman, sent a letter on November 26th implicating Facebook of planning to slap an “invalid” state media label on the company. The social media giant didn’t share the standards it planned to use, and would cause “irreparable harm” to Al Jazeera if it moved forward, according to the letter. The outlet went so far as to recommend that Facebook’s method might be skewed by disputes in between Qatar and surrounding nations like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Even with that sort of action, there’s a lot of pressure on Facebook to use labels quickly. The next United States presidential election is less than a year away, and there’s a concern that countries like Russia may make use of lack of knowledge about their state-controlled media to spread disinformation and skew votes.