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Engagement Surge for State Media on Platform X Post the Removal of 'State-Affiliated' Labels

Several state media outlets from Russia, China, and Iran have experienced a significant 70% rise in user interaction on the platform X, formerly Twitter, following the removal of "state-affiliated" labels, as disclosed in a recent report published Tuesday by NewsGuard.


NewsGuard's in-depth analysis of media patterns and misinformation highlighted that 12 state media accounts from the mentioned countries observed an increase in likes and reposts of their content, escalating from 2.93 million to 4.98 million in the subsequent 90 days post the removal of the labeling.


Among these, Russia’s RT witnessed its post interactions nearly double to 2.5 million in the three months after the amendment, given it already had higher engagement before the removal of the labels. Iran’s PressTV experienced about a 97% surge in engagement, reaching 425,000 interactions, post the elimination of the “state-affiliated” label.


Similarly, TASS from Russia and Global Times from China also noticed a rise in engagement by 63% and 26% respectively, achieving 493,000 and 314,000 interactions in the following three months.


X, under the proprietorship of Elon Musk since last fall, has been amidst continual controversies and decided to discard the “state-affiliated” labels from the platform in April, in light of the criticisms received for tagging NPR as “state-affiliated” and subsequently, as “government-funded” media. Consequently, NPR, along with PBS and CBC, deserted the platform but, while PBS and CBC have rejoined since, NPR remains absent.


Post the removal of these labels, the state-led media accounts are not distinctly marked as such and hence, don't encounter algorithmic restrictions, NewsGuard observes. Initially, X would not boost accounts labeled as “state-affiliated”.


The report also emphasized how Musk's introduction of a paid subscription service, replacing the verified checkmark system, has facilitated the promotion of state-run media accounts on X. Nine out of the twelve scrutinized accounts possess a checkmark via X’s subscription service, allowing them enhanced visibility in conversations and "For You" feeds, the report states.

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