New labels for government and state-affiliated media accounts

Thursday, 6 August 2020

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. In 2019, we banned all state-backed media advertising and political advertising from Twitter. Today we’re expanding the types of political accounts we label

We will add new labels to the following categories of Twitter accounts:

  1. Accounts of key government officials, including foreign ministers, institutional entities, ambassadors, official spokespeople, and key diplomatic leaders. At this time, our focus is on senior officials and entities who are the official voice of the state abroad
  2. Accounts belonging to state-affiliated media entities, their editors-in-chief, and/or their senior staff 
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How do we define government accounts for these new labels?

Our focus is on senior officials and entities that are the voice of the nation state abroad, specifically the account categories listed above. Labels will only be applied to accounts from the countries represented in the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States. For transparency and practicality, we are starting with a limited and clearly-defined group of countries before expanding to a wider range of countries in the future. We believe this is an important step so that when people see an account discussing geopolitical issues from another country, they have context on its national affiliation and are better informed about who they represent. At this time, we're not labeling the personal accounts of heads of state, as these accounts enjoy widespread name recognition, media attention, and public awareness. Institutional accounts associated with their offices that changeover depending on election results will be labeled, however. 

In general, we're focused on those within the respective administrations underneath the head of state that offer its policy perspective abroad.

How do we define state-affiliated media accounts for these new labels? 

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. We believe that people have the right to know when a media account is affiliated directly or indirectly with a state actor. State-financed media organizations with editorial independence, like the BBC in the UK or NPR in the US for example, will not be labeled. As part of the development of this process, we consulted with a number of expert groups, including members of the Digital and Human Rights Advisory group in Twitter’s Trust & Safety Council.  

We will also no longer amplify state-affiliated media accounts or their Tweets through our recommendation systems including on the home timeline, notifications, and search. Government accounts listed in category one are not affected by this change. 

To offer even more context to the public, clicking the labels on both categories of accounts directs people to an article explaining the policy and referring them to the Twitter Transparency Report for additional information.

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Notification and appeals process 

We’ll notify any account that’s labeled and if the account owner believes we’ve made a mistake, they can reach out to us directly. 

Next steps

We plan to continue expanding this approach to additional countries over time and look forward to providing additional updates as those plans take shape. 

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