Facebook is about to launch a new feature that is likely to kick off speculation about a future press conference.
Facebook’s famous “news feed” algorithm will start to call certain types of posts “content” or “story” — but not necessarily in terms with which would make most sense.
One story type which Facebook is likely to start calling content is “state controlled media.”
Al Jazeera’s CEO Tony Almeida has said in an interview that “it is dangerous” to call any media entity and country “state controlled.”
Facebook’s latest announcement is part of a drive to create a range of “community news” to provide users with a place to find information, mostly from the public sphere. These “community news” sites are expected to include news and information about local issues.
But the main focus is expected to be internet “reform” — the fact that social media sites like Facebook are being used to spread fake news.
Most countries already appear to have a degree of media that are in some way “state controlled” and some are classified as propaganda outlets by US intelligence agencies.
As we’ve noted previously, there are about a dozen different layers of bureaucracy in China, and a long list of state-run companies that are publicly-owned, publicly-traded or in some other public way that exert their weight. Most of those companies are privately-owned, including oil companies, airlines, logistics, tech and financial giants.
US intelligence agencies declared in 2007 that there were several countries across the Middle East and Asia that directly controlled the delivery of news, and encouraged people to “monitor” what was being reported on the web, via Twitter and elsewhere.
However, there are some countries that are not currently defined by US intelligence agencies as governments that control media, including Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Iran has a long and tangled history of abuses and censorship in the public sphere, including arbitrary arrests, opposition arrests, leaks of documents to outside parties, and persecution of bloggers and journalists. It’s unclear whether the new Facebook feature will identify any of this.
Sources like Al Jazeera claim that Facebook’s move is the latest step in a strategy by the US to undermine the editorial content of Arab media:
The US Federal government recently stepped up its war on Arab media, according to a report on Al Jazeera on Tuesday. “The report claimed the US government threatened the corporation with sanctions if it continues to support the Arab Spring. Al Jazeera has been accused of being a ‘subversive news source’ and has claimed to be a target of intense pressure, according to the report. “The US government would not be directly involved in blocking the site, but the threat of sanctions has been used as a political tool to force media outlets to bow to the US agenda, it said.”
Al Jazeera went on to claim:
“Al Jazeera, as is the case with most Arab news organisations, is hardly renowned for supporting US policies or neutrality in the Middle East, whether through its editorial stance on US officials, leading Arab countries and Arab economic and political programs. “It has also regularly taken on the American role in the region. Critics say the site ‘censors’ news on US drone strikes and US war in Iraq, for example.”
The report also claimed the move was part of a plan by President Donald Trump to purge Arab media from the Facebook website. A number of Al Jazeera TV outlets have been subject to vicious attacks, including threats of imprisonment, by Twitter users.
This is a theme that we’ve talked about before.
Disclosure: Peter Aldhous is a US journalist and former English correspondent for Al Jazeera’s English online outlet.