Seven media trade organizations published an open letter to Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg blasting the company’s decision to label paid news advertisements the same way as political activism.
“We see your policy as another step toward furthering a false and dangerous narrative that blurs the lines between real reporting from the professional media and propaganda,” the group wrote in the letter Monday.
The media trade groups represent 20,000 media publishers in newspapers, television, magazines, and digital news in 120 countries and includes 21st Century Fox, BBC.com, and The New York Times.
Facebook announced starting on May 24 that it would label all political ads on the platform so its users have better context on what they’re reading. U.S. advertisers on the platform will be required to provide and verify their location and identity. (RELATED: Facebook’s Political Ad Rules Seem To Be Already Causing Problems)
“All election-related and issue ads on Facebook and Instagram in the U.S. must be clearly labeled – including a ‘Paid for by’ disclosure from the advertiser at the top of the ad,” wrote Rob Leathern, director of product management at Facebook, in the announcement on May 24.
When Facebook users click on the “Paid for by” label, they’ll be taken to a searchable archive that will log more information for up to the past seven years. “For example, the campaign budget associated with an individual ad and how many people saw it – including their age, location and gender,” Leathern wrote.
When a publication wants to expand its audience by paying Facebook to promote an article about a political topic, Facebook will treat it the same as a political activist page that also paid for Facebook to boost its content. The coalition urged Zuckerberg to change the policy.
“We also recognize that news coverage of elections and important issues is distinct from advocacy or electoral ads, even if those news stories receive paid distribution on Facebook,” Leathern added. “We’re working closely with news partners and are committed to updating the archive to help differentiate between news and non-news content.”
Facebook is allegedly going to negotiate directly with media companies, Bloomberg reported.
“It is from our view of highest importance that the framework, which is currently being developed by Facebook, recognizes and values high-quality journalism separately and apart from political or issue-based advocacy found across the platform,” the coalition added.
“Equating legitimate fact-based news packages with political content will not only hurt independent watchdog journalism, but also confuse a society that is being bombarded with content created to advocate for ideological factions in detriment of the truth,” said Alfredo Carbajal, managing editor of Al Día at The Dallas Morning News.
The seven groups are the American Society of News Editors, Digital Content Next, European Publishers Council, MPA – The Association of Magazine Media, News Media Alliance, Society of Professional Journalists, and World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.
The Daily Caller is a member of Digital Content Next, the online publishers trade association.
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