Twitter removes ‘government funded’ labels from NPR and other media accounts
Twitter removed labels that described major news organizations as ‘government-funded’ or ‘state-affiliated’ after NPR and public broadcasters in several countries criticized the labels as misleading and suspended use from their Twitter accounts.
Removing the labels was the latest shift that Twitter made abruptly and without explanation at the direction of its owner, Elon Musk.
Twitter made the change a day after it began removing checkmark icons from the profiles of thousands of celebrities, politicians and journalists whose identities it verified before Mr Musk bought the company for $44 billion in October. Twitter, which automatically responds to emailed press inquiries with a poop emoji, did not immediately comment on Friday.
NPR reported that Mr. Musk said in an email that Twitter had dropped all media labels and that “it was Walter Isaacson’s suggestion”, apparently referring to the author and former media executive who works on a book about Mr. Musk. Mr. Isaacson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
NPR said last week it would suspend all use of Twitter after the social network designated the broadcaster as “media affiliated with the US state.”
Twitter later changed the label of NPR’s Twitter account to “Government Funded Media”. He gave the same designation to PBS, which also said he would stop tweeting from his account.
NPR said last week that it received less than 1% of its annual operating budget in grants from the government-funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting and other federal agencies and departments. He said his two main sources of income are corporate sponsorships and fees paid by member stations, which rely heavily on donations from listeners.
PBS states on its website that because it is ad-free, many people mistakenly believe that the government provides most of its funding. But federal funding only accounts for about 15% of its revenue, the broadcaster said.
Twitter also applied the label ‘Government Funded Media’ to the account of the BBC, Britain’s national broadcaster, until it was changed to ‘State Funded Media’. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation objected to Mr. Musk’s decision to label him “69% Government funded mediaand said he was suspending the use of his Twitter account.
In a statement released Thursday, the Global Task Force, a group that represents national public broadcasters in eight countries, including Canada, Britain and France, objected to Twitter labeling four of its members as “government funded media”.
The group said the “misleading label” was applied “without warning or consultation” to the Twitter accounts of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, CBC/Radio-Canada, Korean Broadcasting System and Radio New Zealand. The editorial independence of the four broadcasters is protected by law and enshrined in their editorial policies, the statement said.
“Labelling them in this way misleads the public about their operational and editorial independence from government,” the group said.
This argument was similar to that made by Isabel Lara, NPR’s communications director, who said last week that “NPR’s organizational accounts will no longer be active on Twitter because the platform is taking actions that undermine our credibility by implying mistakenly that we are not editorially independent.
On Friday, Twitter had removed the “government funded” labels from the accounts of NPR, BBC, PBS, CBC and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The label “state-affiliated media” was also removed from the Twitter accounts of China’s state news agency Xinhua and Russian state media RT. The page on Twitter’s website that detailed its media label policy has been removed.
NPR did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday, but NPR chief executive John Lansing said the broadcaster would not immediately return to Twitter even if the “government-funded media” tag was removed.
“I would need some time to figure out if Twitter can be trusted again,” he said in an interview on NPR last week.
PBS declined to comment on Friday. The CBC said in an email: “We are reviewing this latest development and will leave our Twitter accounts on hiatus before moving on to next steps.”
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