The Twitter logo is displayed on an Apple laptop computer. Picture: BLOOMBERG/GABBY JONES
The Twitter logo is displayed on an Apple laptop computer. Picture: BLOOMBERG/GABBY JONES

San Francisco — Twitter has begun labelling some state-backed media accounts, as well as accounts belonging to “key government officials” for certain countries, to create more transparency when governments and their leaders use the social-media platform to discuss important geopolitical issues, the company said on Thursday.

The new policy will start with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the US, UK, Russia, China and France — whose Twitter feeds will be labelled as “government accounts.” State-backed media organisations and their top editors will also get “state-affiliated media” labels. The labels will appear on both account profiles and individual tweets. On Friday, the new tag had been appended to accounts belonging to the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily and Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of its affiliated Global Times, as well as

“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,” Twitter wrote in a blog post.

The labels will not apply to all politicians’ accounts — only those involved in foreign affairs, such as foreign ministers and ambassadors. Labels will also be added to accounts linked to a specific office, such as, for example, the president’s @POTUS account in the US. They will not apply to the personal accounts of heads of state because “these accounts enjoy widespread name recognition, media attention and public awareness,” Twitter says. That means President Donald Trump’s @realDonaldTrump account will not get a label, a company spokesperson confirmed. Nor will labels be added to accounts belonging to members of Congress.

Twitter has defined state-affiliated media 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.” That does not include outlets financially supported by the government with editorial independence, the company says, meaning the UK’s BBC and NPR in the US will be exempt.

Twitter did not share a full list of state-affiliated media organisations, but a spokesperson confirmed that Russia’s RT and Sputnik publications are on the list, along with China’s Xinhua News.

Twitter has increasingly become a place where world leaders and other officials post formal statements, issue demands and even threaten other countries. The company already uses a verification system to confirm the validity of some high-profile users, but those verification badges do not include any explanation about who is behind an account.

Twitter stopped selling advertising to state-backed media organisations a year ago and on Thursday said that it will also stop recommending tweets from those accounts in search results and other parts of the app.

Bloomberg

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