Twitter to Label Tweets From Key Government Officials, State-Affiliated Media Entities

It only applies to China, France, the Russian Federation, the U.K. and the U.S., for now

Twitter defined key government officials as senior officials that are the voice of the nation-state abroad - Credit by Twitter
Headshot of David Cohen

Twitter added tweets from key government officials and from accounts belonging to state-affiliated media entities to the list of political content that it affixes labels to.

The social network defined key government officials as senior officials that are the voice of the nation-state abroad, including foreign ministers, institutional entities, ambassadors, official spokespeople and key diplomatic leaders.

For now, this policy only applies to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council—China, France, the Russian Federation, the U.K. and the U.S.—but the social network said it plans to continue expanding this approach to additional countries over time.

The social network clarified in a blog post, “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 change over depending on election results will be labeled, however.”

Twitter defined state-affiliated media entities as outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content via financial resources, political pressures (direct or indirect) or control over production and distribution, and its new policy applies to the entities themselves, their editors in chief and their senior staff.

The social network said state-affiliated media accounts or their tweets will no longer be amplified via its recommendation system on timeline and through notifications and search.

Twitter explained, “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 U.K. or NPR in the U.S., 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.”

Clicking the labels in either category will bring users to this help center page explaining the policy and refer them to the Twitter Transparency Report for additional information.

Twitter said accounts that are labeled will be notified, and the account owner can appeal if it believes this was done in error.

The social network wrote in its blog post, “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.”


david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.
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