From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Government Controlled News Platforms Risk Twitter Ban

Twitter has announced that it will prevent all state-owned media platforms from advertising on its platform, effective immediately and globally.

The social media platform which has some 321 million monthly active users, announced in a blog post that in order to “protect healthy discourse and open conversation” it would stop allowing any paid advertising campaigns or use services from any media outlet it classifies as “state controlled”.

Through consultation with Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, Freedom House, the Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index, the European Journalism Centre’s Media Landscapes Report, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and UNESCO, Twitter have assessed media freedom and independence to create their new policy.

As such, the new rules will apply to any news media entity that is financially or editorially controlled by the state. They will consider who controls editorial content, financial ownership, influence and interference, exertion of direct or indirect political pressure, and control over the production and distribution process.

The policy will not apply to entities that are solely dedicated to entertainment, sports, and travel, taxpayer-funded entities, or independent public broadcasters.

Those that are already using Twitter’s advertising services will have 30 days to offboard and no further campaigns will be allowed.

Twitter has also banned almost 1000 Chinese Twitter accounts that it claims were “deliberately and specifically” created to sow political discord in Hong Kong where citizens have been protesting since February.

Millions have taken to the streets to voice concern over a new law that will allow extradition to mainland China. Many believe this will be abused and used to capture and silence political critics and dissidents.

The accounts in question were found to be violating a number of Twitter rules in a “coordinated state-backed operation” to undermine the legitimacy and political positions of the protestors. 

In terms of the broad ban imposed on “state controlled media” the disclosed definition is vague and it appears it could be applied to those that are not explicitly state funded, but that are just under the influence of the state. 

Lack of media pluralism is a big problem in Albania, as highlighted by a number of independent reports. Many of the main print, online, and visual media platforms are owned by a handful of individuals with interests and links aligned with the government. Propaganda is rife and many platforms are considered to be “bought” or heavily influenced editorially by politicians and the state. 

Prime Minister Edi Rama runs his own television station “ERTV” but requests for information on how it is funded have been repeatedly stonewalled.

It is not yet clear which Albanian platforms will find themselves hit by Twitter’s new rules but based on the criteria from Twitter including those that are “editorially controlled” by the state or who are influenced, pressured, and controlled either directly or indirectly by the state, the number could be high.