Facebook Singles Out State Media of US Adversaries for a Warning

Ignoring state-owned media in nations allied with the U.S., Facebook is attaching a warning label to state media from countries the U.S. doesn’t like.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

Facebook has begun adding labels to news articles it publishes from “state media” to warn readers about where their news is coming from.

The warning reads: “This publisher is wholly or partially under the editorial control of a state. This is determined by a range of factors, including but not limited to funding, structure and journalistic standards.”

“The concern for us is state media combines the agenda setting power of a media entity with the strategic backing of a state,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, told CNN Business. “If you’re reading coverage of a protest, it’s really important you know who is writing that coverage and what motivation they have. The goal of this is to ensure the public will see and understand who is behind it.” 

Facebook is so far labeling news from only two state media outlets. It’s hardly surprising who they are:  Russian government-owned Sputnik and RT, and Xinhua, China’s national news agency.

A government can choose its adversaries. But nowhere is it written that the news media, or Facebook, has to automatically go along.  Doing so makes one look like state-run media.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies to Congress, April 2018. (YouTube)

Facebook will also ban advertising on its platform from state media it doesn’t like. So far that’s only from Russia and China.

These are purely political decisions made by Facebook under direct pressure from the U.S. government in open Congressional hearings. It has nothing to do with maintaining accuracy in media. 

It is social media being used as proxy censors by a government that under the Constitution is not allowed to directly censor. Social media companies were at first reluctant to give in, realizing it’s not what their customers want, but give in they have.

Many State Medias 

The obvious question is:  Why won’t there be warning labels on news from Agence France Presse, majority-owned by the French government, or the BBC, the CBC, Radio France, ZDF in Germany, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Voice of America or Radio Free Europe–all government-funded media?

The obvious answer is: These outlets are run by the U.S. and its allied governments. Westerners generally decline to see their own bias, even in their private media.  Western media can present news from an American or Euro-centric viewpoint, but decry Russia or China reporting news from their vantage point. Viewing themselves as generally superior and universal, Western establishments have grown used to not being criticized too much by its media, especially in its foreign entanglements.

Big corporate media in the U.S., in their national security and foreign affairs reporting, are essentially mouthpieces for the intelligence agencies, who routinely launder disinformation through big media.  In this sense, U.S. media has become an extension of the state, even if they are privately-owned.

Consider also the Murdoch empire in the U.S., UK and Australia, which for decades has operated with a distinct, right-wing political agenda and strike fear in governments in those countries.  But Western leaders and journalists have convinced themselves that their media is universally objective and true, even when they lead a nation into a war of aggression based on lies, or spend three years on a fantasy of foreign interference. 

Make no mistake. These “state media” labels are just in time for the November presidential election.

Pushing an Agenda

My long experience writing about international affairs for major media taught me that U.S., privately-owned newspapers–not just Chinese and Russian media–have an agenda, which is to not neutrally report complex international events from multiple sides, but to promote U.S. interests abroad.

Mainstream media’s greatest sin is the sin of omission: leaving out of a story, or marginalizing, points of view at odds with a U.S. agenda, but vital for the reader to comprehend a frighteningly complex world.

The viewpoints of Iranians, Palestinians, Russians, North Koreans, Syrians and others are never fully reported in the Western media, though the supposed mission of journalism is to tell all sides of a story. It’s impossible to understand an international crisis without those voices being heard. Routinely or systematically shutting them out dehumanizes people in those countries, making it easier to gain popular support in the U.S. to go to war against them. 

In this sense, Russian and Chinese media understand much better American motives and thinking than the other way around, if only because it airs Western journalists and commentators whose dissenting views are shut out in the West.

I appear on Sputnik and RT as an analyst and commentator and I can tell you the Russian state does not vet what I say. If they don’t like what I say they can not invite me back, just the way Western media does. Just ask Ray McGovern, who’s been shut out of U.S. television studios.

Ultimately it is up to the individual to decide what to believe or not believe in media, and the best way to facilitate that is for the reader or viewer to have an unhindered access to any media they choose to consume. 

The more diverse views from many nations that publics are exposed to, the better, for them to arrive at an informed understanding of the world. Facebook undermining the credibility of an article even before it is read, by them or the public, is not the way to achieve this.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He began his professional career as a stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

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23 comments for “Facebook Singles Out State Media of US Adversaries for a Warning

  1. dean 1000
    June 9, 2020 at 07:49

    What facebook is doing wouldn’t be so hypercritical if also said that facebook is as influenced by the wants and needs of its capitalist advertisers as state owned media is influenced by the state. Facebook could also admit it is influenced by the politicians who make advertising tax deductible. Rip Van Winkle is the only one who doesn’t know said politicians influenced Janusbook to badmouth Russian and Chinese media.

    Congress could give the person who bought the advertised product the tax deduction rather than the advertiser. Not to mention that congress has a class bias against the people. There would be a mini survey on the 1040 tax form asking each citizen what kind of media to fund – News & Information, comedy, drama, politics, all the above. Imagine TV, Radio, newspapers, websites without the interference and influence of advertisers. There is an alternative to the undue influence of advertisers and the state. It need not cost a penny more than now.

  2. Tim
    June 8, 2020 at 02:06

    Zuckerberg is just bowing the knee to the powers that be. I have a question for Joe and all others. If Mark does not regulate, will he be regulated? There have been warning shots fired across the bow of alternative media.

  3. Rob Roy
    June 8, 2020 at 01:59

    Good article. Facebook is too big for its britches and too influential, and not in a good way. I don’t use it and wonder why people don’t care that they are exposed to tracking and censorship thought up by the likes of Zuckerberg. But what today is nearly as good as Joe’s writing are the comments following. Thanks especially to AnneR who has said what I think (that’s always pleasant). I remember when my faith in PBS fell away…the day it decided against running a documentary on the Koch brothers because, ahem, the brothers gently indicated it would not be appreciated (and best remember the $40 million donation). As for NPR, same thing. Neither ever leave the US desired propaganda.
    Here’s a book to consider: “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” by Shoshana Zuboff

  4. ranney
    June 7, 2020 at 17:28

    I was happy you mentioned some of the other organizations and also threw in Ray McGovern. I wish he were allowed on U.S. media news but he is definitely no longer allowed there. I note a number of people are among the “disappeared” some of them more recent. Not only is the entire list of VIPS now on the “disappeared” list but many others as well – Glenn Greenwald of Intercept, Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, ??? Lawrence ( Colin Powell’s adjutant whose name momentarily slips my aged mind) are some recent ones, but there are many others and there will be of course more to come. I call these people “the unpeople”. It’s like the entire MSM has wiped their existence out. It is quite frightening because the entire nation is being deprived of the knowledge these people hold.

    Here is a perfect example: William Binney was the IT head of the NSA and actually wrote some of the code still being used today. He knows everything that NSA is capable of and has been directly honest about it. If you were a reporter and wanted to get information about a “hack” on the DNC , wouldn’t you want to interview the guy who knows all the technical abilities of the NSA? Not only that, but he has written about it and talked on non-network shows about this. He is easily available and probably the most technically knowledgeable person in the country – yet no major news organization will talk to him!!! No MSM TV, no major newspaper or magazine, no radio. Not only that, but his name is never even spoken out loud or mentioned in articles, he is an “unperson”. There are many dozens of them, and more likely hundreds.
    It’s actually quite scary. I wish the CN would write more about this because we are cut off from the knowledge these people have.

    • Consortiumnews.com
      June 7, 2020 at 21:39

      “I wish the CN would write more about this because we are cut off from the knowledge these people have.”

      You are kidding, right? Consortium News is where every VIPS memo is first published and is the depository of all of its memos; Ray McGovern writes two columns a month for CN; other VIPS members, like Coleen Rowley, write for CN; Bill Binney has written for CN and is widely quoted in these pages; Bill and Ray appeared last month on an hour-long interview on CN Live!, and have been guests on our webcast several times before. There is no publication anywhere where these knowledgeable people are heard from more.

    • Rob Roy
      June 8, 2020 at 02:20

      Ray McGovern and the other VIPS get coverage all the time at Consortium News.
      The great reporter that gets no coverage now anywhere in the US is the incomparable Seymour Hersh who has racked up prestigious awards to many to mention. He used to write for the New York Times (which now has lost ALL its great reporters), and other publications until finally getting to the highly esteemed for fact-checking The New Yorker, but no longer. He proved that Bashar al Assad did not use chemical weapons on Syrians and could not get that printed anywhere in the US. Finally, it was printed in Der Welt in Germany where I found it. I never thought the New Yorker would buckle under to “Russiagate” and “al Assad uses chemical weapons on Syrians” but it did. [It even hired Masha Gessen, it’s fallen so far.]
      I thank my lucky stars every day for Consortium News, the source to be counted on every singly day for factual reporting.

  5. Fire and Air
    June 7, 2020 at 14:56

    Read the complete transcript of the monologue under the video.
    Network – Money Speech
    Even in 1979, even before news corps were in the hands of only a few big media tycoons somebody understood the mechanisms of neoliberal, capitalist, deep state.

  6. Zhu
    June 7, 2020 at 05:17

    I live and work in post-communist China. I don’t particularly trust the Chinese media, but I definitely don’t much trust the Western media on China. Not only are they biased by Cold War childhood political education, but sometimes are just pig ignorant. Eg, The Guardian claiming one can’t send text in Chinese Characters! Five minutes research would have told the author otherwise.

    Pepe Escobar is an honorable exception, and there are a few other writers. But more and more, I rely on my own perceptions. That has drawbacks, too, but at least my mistakes are my own.

  7. Zhu
    June 7, 2020 at 04:44

    No one seems to have much trust the critical thinking skills of educated individuals, it appears.

  8. bardamu
    June 6, 2020 at 14:09

    Except that it is not so simple as the corporation directs the state and the state directs the population, is it? The state also directs other corporations–including, very frequently, media outlets.

    • hidden in plain sight
      June 6, 2020 at 21:06

      The deep state, a.k.a. The Shadow Government.

      Secret agencies (“intelligence”) run largely by corporate interests (like the military industrial complex, with many of the same players), unelected, with black budgets and no oversight.

      Reference (among other things) Operation Mockingbird, the Church Committee hearings, and the Black Eagle Trust.

  9. AnneR
    June 6, 2020 at 13:42

    Thank you Mr Lauria – yep, you have written what my immediate thoughts were on hearing of this all too typical western (US led) pointing of fingers at such as RT, Presstv, Sputnik, the China media (sorry, don’t know their names – oh aye – China Daily is one). Of course the west doesn’t have such, ho ho. Really. Please. But you left NPR-PBS off thy list. They are funded basically by tax payer dollars via el gobierno and heavily funded by Foundation $$$$ (always in my book rather dubious; even more so because we are never really informed about the underlying motivations – aside from tax avoidance of these foundations). Individual subscribers (now called “investors” with strong hints to companies…), I suspect, provide a rather small proportion of the funding, all told.

    And – even when NPR or the Beeb World Service speak with, have on, someone from Syria, Iran, China, Hong Kong, Russia, you can be absolutely certain: a) they speak English suggesting that they are at the very least from a comfortably off background, not part of the majority population, indeed they are likely to also be in a western country; b) they are decidedly *Anti* the government, be it Syrian (despite Assad having been elected) or Chinese or Russian or Iranian and *pro* the west dictating (they don’t put it like that) how the given country should be run. Indeed they seem quite happy with the notion that their (?) country should be devastated, its government overthrown and a (of course) right wing, pro-US murderous govt installed…These people or their families clearly benefited while living under the Shah, the Chinese Nationalists, Yeltsin – Syria’s a bit more difficult given the longevity of the Assads being in power. Neither NPR nor the Beeb *ever* have on board to speak with someone of the “bad hat” country who is pro the government and governing precepts of the time. NEVER.

    But, dontcha know – they’re “objective.”

    • Consortiumnews.com
      June 7, 2020 at 04:48

      NPR only receives about 15% funding from government bodies, and PBS is a private, non-profit. Neither can be considered state-owned media.

    • AnneR
      June 7, 2020 at 06:28

      The percentage directly from the government itself is rather less important I would argue because BOTH receive large sums of money from “Foundations” which are in the monetary control of the very same Ruling Elites who are the real power in this (and every other) country (especially those pretending to be “democracies”). Yes, individual subscribers help fund these two institutions, though less NPR or PBS per se than their local stations. Moreover, both NPR and PBS get money directly from corporations/companies as their increasing not-advertising-advertising makes crystal.

      Neither PBS nor NPR (and at the local level they are broadcast by the same stations) EVER seriously questions the ruling elite, lobbyist viewpoints on any serious subject. They are the equal to the NYT in their full-blown support for Occupied Palestine, US economic sanctions and war against all and every country that won’t bow and scrape, their anti-Iran, anti-China, anti-Russia propaganda (they refuse to let go of Russia-gate, of Flynn’s “lying to the FBI,” of Russia’s disinformation etc. etc.), they only ever interview/speak with those who uphold the image of the world as propagated by themselves, the Blue Faces of the Janus Party (and the Red Faces when they fall in line with US exceptionalist hegemonic intentions), the plutocratic and MIC ruling elites.

      Thus in what way are they not state media? Under their facade?

      • Consortiumnews.com
        June 7, 2020 at 08:44

        “Big corporate media in the U.S., in their national security and foreign affairs reporting, are essentially mouthpieces for the intelligence agencies, who routinely launder disinformation through big media. In this sense, U.S. media has become an extension of the state, even if they are privately-owned.”

        We made the point you are making in the article. Factually speaking NPR is not “state media” even if acts that way. That we didn’t mention NPR in my view does not detract at all from the article. We am in no way giving it a pass. We can’t mention all US media that goes along with US foreign policy.

    • Piotr Berman
      June 7, 2020 at 10:46

      I forgot PBS, isn’t it Petroleum Broadcasting Network supported in part by Mobile? My info is dated. As the most famous Chinese novel starts (in modern translation) “Empires wax and wane, companies cleave and coalesce”.

  10. Aaron
    June 6, 2020 at 12:20

    Right on, regarding Venezuela, the sin of omission is appalling, coverage is so obviously biased and omits any context and balance, that for all practical purposes, it’s the same as state media, just using Wolf Blitzer or whoever as the conduit through corporate media, and certainly the same thing for Israel, it’s always one-sided and omits anything negative, leaving an audience with the impression that they are infallible, and that surely, our 3,800,000,000 dollars/year in aid for them is so well-spent. You know seeing Colin Powell in that newspaper photo makes me wonder why PBS has him on their Memorial Day concert every year as the voice of a patriot or something, it’s a joke.

    • AnneR
      June 7, 2020 at 06:13

      Aaron, Yes, indeed. I would only add that Venezuela and Israel (Occupied Palestine) are treated in exactly the same way on NPR and the BBC World Service – one-sided ONLY – and we know *which* side in both cases. Both NPR and the BBC *are* state funded, the latter completely from enforced television license fees on the public, the former partly (though without that part NPR-PBS would have to suck up to the corporate-capitalists even more than they do now) together with much funding from a whole host of so-called “Foundations” usually linked to many of those corporate-capitalists and with unalluded to interests (at least not mentioned on NPR). Individual subscribers – ordinary ones – are, I would suggest, by far the smaller segment of their funding.

      Thus both these major national media are controlled by the interests of the corporate-capitalist-imperialist ruling elites, in government and in un-elected positions of power and influence.

      At the moment the World Service is broadcasting a serial “play” called Miriam and Yusef – and guess what, it is supposedly about how Palestine became “Israel.” I seriously doubt that it is told, played, written from the Palestinian POV – I can’t listen to, or hear it because I know all too well from listening experience with the Beeb (and NPR) whose POV is purveyed, always.

  11. Jeff Harrison
    June 6, 2020 at 11:39

    Come, come, now, Joe. I know you know better. This is narrative control, part 27, by the imperial state. It used to be that we got our news from what is known as the MSM. These outlets have been co-opted for decades now. If the government doesn’t want a story run, they won’t run it. They also send stenographers in lieu of real reporters to get the news. Indeed most of them, including the formerly great NYT, actually get their “news” from Reuters, AFP, and AP (according to a Swiss University study). They don’t even get it directly from Langley, the Pentagon, or the White House. The imperial state has figured out that many people just look at their facebook/google/whatever news feeds and swallow whatever preapproved narrative the imperial state wants you to accept. So now “dead-eyes” Zuckerberg, Google, et al are being/have been co-opted. I read a lot of Tass and RT. One of the things that I like about those outlets (although RT has been falling down on this lately) is that they are so bland. I don’t really have a desire to say – minus the slanted adjectives, yes or no. Those slanted adjectives lead you to the where the news outlet wants you to go even if their words won’t get you there.

    The likes of facebook putting these warnings up and filtering what they will show you is remarkably hypocritical all things considered. Thank god we have outlets like CN.

    • Joe Lauria
      June 6, 2020 at 19:40

      Sorry but I don’t understand your comment. What is it that I should have known better?

    • Jeff Harrison
      June 7, 2020 at 01:25

      You ask rhetorically how can you understand international events/situations etc without the voices of these other actors. The answer is, of course you can’t. And that’s the whole point. You’re not supposed to be able to understand, you’re just supposed to swallow the narrative of the deep state.

  12. Skip Scott
    June 6, 2020 at 10:56

    China and Russia have state run media, the US and its vassals have corporate run states. The concept of a sovereign “state” regarding the USA is pure fantasy. It is only a subservient tool of the Oligarchy. Our “intelligence” agencies have been controlling “The Mighty Wurlitzer” for decades at the behest of the Western backed Global Corporate Elite. The citizenry is fed “theater” rather than news.

    Facebook knows who they need to obey to stay on the gravy train. They are “owned” by the Oligarchy. They will keep the Mighty Wurlitzer at full volume to drown out any dissenting voices. But we can pretend we matter, corralled here in our “sound proof free speech zone.” Enjoy it while it lasts. Someday they will come for us.

    • DW Bartoo
      June 7, 2020 at 17:30

      Precisely, Skip Scott, the “best” government that corporate money can buy.

      What does that corporate money buy?

      It buys policy, foreign and domestic.

      It buys control and reaps profits.

      Corporate-owned media is part of the mixsnd but six huge corporations own almost all of U$ M$M.

      What does the corporate-owned media, with that wondrous Wurlitzer (named such, if memory serves, by Robert Parry) seek to do?

      By odd happenstance, and total coincidence, it consistently tries to control what the public knows and what it thinks about what it thinks it knows.

      Now, of course, none of this is acknowledged as “fact”.

      Therefore, it is not truth.

      However, post Russiagate, ” … the truth cannot be presented as evidence.”

      That line was used, some time ago, to defend then President Jefferson from claims that he had ” … a … concubine named Sally …”.

      How wonderfully far we have come from those dreary days of easy deceit, when the still-new First Amendment was readily thought to have permitted publishers far too much latitude in terms of questioning power.

      With the exception of Assange, and a few others who still dare question, it would seem that those in power are little vexed with media annoyance.

      Indeed, even those who the media loudly and fervently claim to resist, continue to receive constant coverage of, and guaranteed import ascribed to, their every utterance.

      Especially if a President, for example, “acts Presidential”, by unleashing “our beautiful weapons”.

      In their defense, it must be admitted that the corporate-owned media is superb at both virtue signaling and moral preening.

      Both of which actions are widely admired.

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