Facebook has announced that it will start labelling Russia Today, Sputnik, Iran's Press TV, China's Xinhua News and other government-funded news outlets as "state media" and will block any ads from them that target US users later this summer.
Facebook's new rules do not, however, apply to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), whose board is largely appointed by the commonwealth's monarch, as well as any media outlets in the US - irrespective of their funding - since the social media platform sees the editorial policies of the above mentioned media outlets as "independent".
Are US National Media 'Independent'?
Facebook's decision is "primarily as a propaganda exercise", says British political analyst Marcus Godwyn, adding that one of the goals of the tech giant's initiative is to evoke memories of the 20th century Cold War era. In those times, "state-controlled" societies were portrayed in Western countries as antagonists of "free democracies", so the use of the word "state" by Facebook can be seen as a smear tactic and a propaganda trick, he suggests.
The corporation's move to "tag" particular media outlets is also meant to present them as organisations that have been concealing their funding sources, which is not the case:
"Yes! It is true that Sputnik, RT, Ruptly, Tass and some others as well as the main domestic television channels are funded by Russian tax payer money allocated to them by the Russian 'state'. Oooooh! How sinister!" he remarks.
At the same time, US media outlets, which are pronounced to be independent of state control, are in fact "entirely in the hands" of a few large for-profit corporations, which, de facto, play the role of the "invisible state", Godwyn suggests. In this light "the Russian, Chinese and Iranian way are doing things is far more honest, far less sinister and in fact takes all the moral high ground", he opines.
Facebook's treatment of news sources in Russia, China and Iran appears to use a different approach to the way the social media giant addresses Western news sources. The bias is not surprising, says Joe Quinn, a Paris-based political commentator and author, because the three do not fit the geopolitical and social worldview of Western powers.
"It is certainly ironic that in labelling and censoring Russian, Iranian and Chinese state media in this way, Facebook is itself acting as an arm of Western governments in promoting their perspective to the exclusion of perspectives from countries that the US government views as geopolitical enemies," he highlights.
A Prelude to 2020 Presidential Election?
Facebook's step comes just five months before the US presidential elections and should be seen as part of the growing political unrest and partisan polarisation, according to Stevan Gajic, a PhD in political science who works at the Institute of European Studies in Belgrade.
Following Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, which indicated that the claims of Trump-Russia "collusion" were largely false, the recent House Intelligence Committee (HIC) testimonies by former intelligence and Obama administration officials may diminish "the chances of the Democrat candidate Joe Biden" in the upcoming election run, notes Gajic.
"It seems that the idea behind Facebook’s announced unprecedented censorship policy is to revive the dead conspiracy theory promoted by the Democrats that Russia (or potentially other foreign сountry) is involved in influencing the outcome of the US presidential elections," he observes.
Touching upon the new election cycle in America, Canadian political commentator Fabio Corvaglia says that Facebook's decision to label Chinese and Russian news organisations as "state media" can be seen as an attempt to clear the media space of dissenting voices in the run up to the November vote. He recollects that the Western mainstream news media like CNN, the BBC, MSNBC, CBC (Canada), RAI (Italy), The New York Times, The Washington Post and others were willingly propagating the US establishment's narrative of Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 US elections.
"The reality is that the Western mainstream news media are more akin to being 'state media' than the ones targeted by Facebook!" Corvaglia notes. "Hard to fathom that there are still elected officials in the US who are still spewing delusions of Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections regardless of all the facts that have surfaced debunking this fantasy."
The alleged Russia interference has stayed in the headlines of the US mainstream media since the 2016 election and is still used as a bogeyman by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FBI, despite a lack of evidence to back up the claims.
"The measure of banning advertisements that target Americans will not make much difference to anything because the fact is that Russia or any other state did not interfere in the last US election", Godwyn states.