February 25, 2024

New York

NPR on Wednesday said that it is suspending its use of Twitter after clashing with the social media company and its owner Elon Musk over a controversial new “state-affiliated media” label applied to its accounts.

“NPR’s organizational accounts will no longer be active on Twitter because the platform is taking actions that undermine our credibility by falsely implying that we are not editorially independent,” the broadcaster said in a statement. “We are not putting our journalism on platforms that have demonstrated an interest in undermining our credibility and the public’s understanding of our editorial independence.”

Late last week, Twitter labeled the radio broadcaster as a “state-affiliated media” organization akin to foreign propaganda outlets such as Russia’s RT and Sputnik. The move was quickly rebuked by NPR, which is publicly funded by listeners. NPR CEO John Lansing called the label “unacceptable.” Twitter over the weekend updated the label to “government-funded media.”

In a final series of tweets — its first in over a week — NPR noted other places its work can be found, including through its app and newsletters, as well as on other social media platforms.

“Millions of Americans depend on NPR and their local public radio stations for the fact-based, independent, public service journalism they need to stay informed about the world and about their own communities,” Lansing said in an email to NPR staff Wednesday. “It would be a disservice to the serious work you all do here to continue to share it on a platform that is associating the federal charter for public media with an abandoning of editorial independence or standards.”

In a series of tweets on Wednesday after NPR’s announcement, Musk continued to spar with the outlet and accused it of being “hypocritical” in its explanations of how it’s funded.

US television broadcaster PBS later followed NPR’s lead in announcing that it would stop tweeting after its accounts received the same “government-funded media” label. “PBS stopped tweeting from our account when we learned of the change and we have no plans to resume at this time,” it said in a statement Wednesday.

Earlier in the week, PBS had criticized the label, saying it “leaves the inaccurate impression that PBS is wholly funded by the federal government. PBS is primarily funded by the public and philanthropic organizations, with only a small portion of our funding coming from entities affiliated with government.”

The moves by NPR and PBS threaten to undermine one of Twitter’s key selling points — its role as a central hub for news — especially if other outlets follow in NPR’s footsteps. Twitter has also faced backlash over applying a similar “government funded media” label to the BBC, which is also primarily funded by the public.

In an interview with the BBC Tuesday, Musk acknowledged the pushback, saying, “I know the BBC … was not thrilled about being labeled ‘state affiliated media.’”

“Our goal is simply to … be as truthful and accurate as possible,” Musk said, adding that he planned to update the BBC’s label to “publicly funded.”

It’s just the latest example of Musk antagonizing media outlets. Twitter earlier this month also targeted the New York Times by removing the blue verification checkmark from its main account, after previously pledging to remove checks from all users verified under Twitter’s legacy system. And the platform riled some journalists when it briefly restricted users from sharing links to a popular newsletter platform, a move it quickly walked back.

Meanwhile, Twitter also appears to have removed some restrictions on Russian government accounts that had been put in place following the outset of Russia’s war in Ukraine. “All news is to some degree propaganda. Let people decide for themselves,” Musk said in a tweet commenting on the decision Sunday.

The chaos comes as Musk attempts to shore up Twitter’s business, which he has repeatedly said was on the brink of bankruptcy and had just “four months to live” following his takeover.

Twitter has faced an exodus of advertisers, who have been concerned about increased hate speech on the platform and massive cuts to the company’s workforce. In the meantime, Musk has taken on the uphill battle of encouraging users to pay $8 per month for the platform’s subscription service.

It’s “not fun at all” and can sometimes be “painful,” the billionaire CEO told the BBC Tuesday of running the company, although he suggested that some Twitter advertisers are returning to the platform.

–CNN’s Oliver Darcy contributed to this report.


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