Twitter will label the accounts of government officials and state-affiliated media outlets, following similar policies from Facebook and YouTube. The new labels are already being applied but will roll out gradually, with government labels being applied to officials from China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Twitter will also stop recommending tweets from state-affiliated media.
Twitter says the labels will provide context to help users make informed decisions. Its public officials rollout focuses on accounts that represent “the voice of the nation-state abroad” and are likely to engage in geopolitical discussion on Twitter. The US State Department has a label (as does Secretary of State Mike Pompeo), for example, while the Treasury Department doesn’t. Twitter also isn’t labeling the personal accounts for heads of state, saying these accounts already enjoy “widespread name recognition, media attention, and public awareness.”
The state-affiliated media category includes outlets where a government “exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution.” (The labels will also appear on senior staff members’ accounts.) It doesn’t include outlets that receive government funding but maintain editorial independence.
Twitter already banned state-affiliated media from buying Twitter ads, and it’s now going to avoid amplifying these outlets, “including on the home timeline, notifications, and search.” The full extent of this isn’t clear: searching for Russia-affiliated RT, for example, still brings up the account’s name with its new label. A Twitter spokesperson also said that “there won’t be a change to the account’s visibility if someone follows them” — so if you follow an account like RT, you’ll still see its tweets in the algorithmically organized “top tweets” timeline.
Twitter is following a similar move by Facebook, which added labels to state-owned media in June, and YouTube, which announced a labeling policy in 2018. However, Twitter is apparently the first major platform to explicitly lock these accounts out of its recommendation algorithms.