Facebook on Thursday said it will now apply labels to state-controlled media outlets, which includes Russia-based Sputnik, Iran's Press TV and Xinhua.
Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, said that the company would begin blocking ads from state-controlled media outlets in the US later this summer, out of an abundance of caution to provide an extra layer of protection against various types of foreign influence in the public debate ahead of the November, 2020 presidential election in the US.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told reporters during a daily briefing on Friday that "any media agency operating in line with relevant laws of various countries should be treated equally", reports marketscreener.com.
Gleicher said that the labels will appear globally in the Ad Library Page view, on Pages, and in the Page Transparency section.
"In the US, the label will also start to appear on posts in News Feed over the course of the next week. People should know if the news they read is coming from a publication that may be under the influence of a government," he added.
US-China relations are going through their worst times after a bitter trade war and now the Covid-19 pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 Americans.
Former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos said that this is going to be a huge test of Facebook management.
"Will they stand behind the teams that are working to blunt the use of their platform by state media organisations that are unbound by traditional media economics?" he tweeted.
"While Facebook and YouTube are blocked within the PRC, they both carry ads from Chinese companies looking to reach the diaspora and global consumers. There is a lot of leverage available and I hope YouTube follows and that Facebook holds firm," he added.
Several months ago, Facebook had announced plans to label media outlets that are wholly or partially under the editorial control of their governments.
Facebook would look at factors that may indicate editorial control by a government, including mission statement, mandate, and/or public reporting on how the organisation defines and accomplishes its journalistic mission.
It would look into ownership structure, editorial guidelines, information about newsroom leadership and staff, sources of funding and revenue and governance and accountability mechanisms.
"If we determine that there are enough protections in place to ensure editorial independence, we will not apply the label," said Facebook.