MANILA (UPDATE) — Less than a year into the 2022 polls, Facebook Inc's initiative of labeling government media organizations as "state-controlled media," which started in the United States last year meant to "protect" its election, has reached the Philippines.
The Facebook and Instagram accounts of the government's People's Television Network (PTV) station, and their individual posts, can now be seen bearing such tags.
IBC TV 13, Radyo Pilipinas, Philippine News Agency and Radio Television Malacañang also have the "state-controlled media" label in their posts.
Under the label, a short explanation states, "Facebook has designated this publisher because it believes it may be partially or wholly under the editorial control of a state."
Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, earlier explained in a blog post that adding the label would provide "greater transparency into these publishers because they combine the influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state..."
"[W]e believe people should know if the news they read is coming from a publication that may be under the influence of a government," he said.
Gleicher also said Facebook would not apply the label if it determined that the media organization has "enough protections in place to ensure editorial independence."
In the same blog post on the Facebook Newsroom website, the tech company said that starting May 17, 2021, it would begin to roll out the label outside the US.
As soon as May 20, 2021, ABS-CBN News was able to see such a label in one of PTV's Facebook posts.
In a statement, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said that although PTV is a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC), the agency still has editorial control over its content and is not controlled by the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
"PTV-4 is a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) mandated to support all initiatives, programs, and projects of the government, regardless of administration," he said.
Andanar also said the matter should not be a source of contention, as his office "continues to uphold and promote media freedom and freedom of speech as an integral part of our democratic system."
In a separate statement, the management of PTV also said the recent development does not affect the agency.
"This development does not affect PTV in any way, and PTV will continue to serve the people regardless of what Facebook or any other foreign entity may decide to do, particularly during this time of pandemic when there are significant challenges to face and overcome," it said.
"Just like any media organization, PTV is committed to the pursuit of journalistic excellence, which paves the way for a fair and unbiased reportage as well as the prevention of the spread of misleading, if not, totally false information. Given such a mandate, the public can be rest assured that PTV has not lost sight of its mission to deliver only the news and information that the public needs to know," it added.
Facebook said the "state-controlled media" tag would be found on sponsored content, or ads, run by the government outfits.
The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) last month reported that the social media giant has begun monitoring political advertising in the country through its Ad Library, a publicly available tool.
The rollout of the Ads Library is expected to boost the transparency of the upcoming pandemic elections in the Philippines, where candidates are forced to do their campaigns online.
— With a report from Agence France-Presse