Elon Musk reportedly threatened to reassign NPR’s Twitter account due to inactivity:- According to a series of email exchanges, Twitter CEO Elon Musk expressed doubts about the accuracy of labeling NPR as “state-affiliated media” on the platform. These exchanges offered insight into Musk’s decision-making process and the impact of his choices beyond Twitter.
Despite Elon Musk’s doubts, as of late Thursday, NPR’s designation as “state-affiliated media” on Twitter remained unchanged. The decision had surprised both the network and press freedom advocates, who noted that NPR’s federal support only accounts for roughly 1% of its annual operating budget. This grouping placed NPR alongside government-backed propaganda outlets in countries like China and Russia.
One email exchange suggested that Elon Musk may have been uncertain about the distinction between public media and state-controlled media when he decided to label NPR as “state-affiliated media” on Twitter.
Upon being informed that NPR’s federal funding accounted for only 1% of its finances, Musk suggested a desire to address the matter. “Well, then we should fix it,” he reportedly wrote in an email to a reporter on Wednesday.
Musk added: “What’s the breakdown of NPR annual funding?”
NPR reportedly responded to Musk’s comments by sharing publicly available financial records that demonstrated how corporate sponsorships and programming fees paid by local public radio stations accounted for nearly 71% of the network’s funding, while federal support represented only about 1%.
According to Twitter’s guidelines, news outlets that are not influenced by the government should not be labeled as “state-affiliated media.” NPR fits this description, as it covers news independently and without any government influence.
In a different email exchange, Elon Musk reportedly drew comparisons between NPR and media outlets that are controlled by foreign governments. However, he also acknowledged that it “sounds like” NPR might not fall into that category.
Elon Musk suggested that Twitter’s operating principle is based on providing fair and equal treatment to all accounts, regardless of their location. He noted that if non-US accounts are labeled as “government-affiliated,” then the same standard should apply to US accounts. However, he also acknowledged that this designation might not be accurate in NPR’s case.
Elon Musk’s email comments represented a reversal from a tweet he had sent just hours earlier, in which he had stated that the “state-affiliated” label for NPR “seems accurate.”
Despite the conflicting statements, Elon Musk reportedly reiterated his commitment to applying rules fairly and equally to all accounts in an email sent on Thursday. He also confirmed that the designation of NPR’s account is still being evaluated.
Elon Musk’s comments to NPR over the past two days added to the confusion surrounding the situation. However, this chaos is not unique to Twitter, as the platform has faced similar instances of disarray in the past.
Since Elon Musk assumed control of Twitter in October, the platform has occasionally displayed a hostile attitude toward the national press. The recent conflict between Musk and NPR is the latest example of the Twitter CEO’s confrontational approach to the mainstream media, which has frequently offered critical coverage of Musk and his companies.
In addition to labeling NPR as “state-affiliated media,” Twitter has taken other actions that suggest a hostile stance towards the mainstream media since Elon Musk assumed control of the platform in October.
For instance, the social media giant stripped the New York Times of its verified blue checkmark, and in December, Musk suspended the accounts of several high-profile journalists who had shared tweets or reported on an account that tracked the movements of his private jet.
This statement seems to be unsupported and potentially inaccurate. While there may have been instances of unprofessional behavior from Twitter’s communications team, it would be inappropriate to make a generalization about their response to reporters’ requests for comment.
It’s important to rely on reliable sources and verify information before making statements that could be misleading or false.
According to a statement from PEN America, a literary organization focused on promoting free expression, the designation of NPR as “state-affiliated media” was concerning and potentially harmful to public trust in reliable news sources. The group described the move as “dangerous” and called for Twitter to reconsider the label.
According to a statement from John Lansing, NPR’s president, and CEO, he was “disturbed” by Twitter’s decision to label the network as “state-affiliated media.” Lansing expressed his dissatisfaction with the label, calling it “unacceptable” in a statement.
Although Musk expressed a desire for fair treatment, Twitter’s labeling of NPR as “state-affiliated media” may have violated the platform’s own guidelines and could have negative consequences for the network’s credibility.
“State-affiliated media” are outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content directly through funding, or indirectly through political pressure, according to the guidelines.
According to a former Twitter executive involved in the development of the platform’s state-affiliation labels, the key consideration has always been the level of editorial independence maintained by a media outlet.
Media outlets such as The People’s Daily in China, as well as Sputnik and RT in Russia, were labeled as state-affiliated due to their lack of editorial independence and direct control by the state, despite receiving funding from the government. However, media outlets that maintain editorial autonomy and receive some government funding were not labeled as state-affiliated by Twitter.
That approach seems to align with Twitter’s official guidelines, which state that the state-affiliated media label is intended for media outlets that are “either financially or editorially controlled by the state.”
The guidelines also say that media outlets that receive government funding but maintain editorial independence should not be labeled as state-affiliated.
has been designated as such by other countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, due to its coverage of sensitive political issues. However, this designation has been criticized by press freedom advocates who argue that Al Jazeera maintains editorial independence from the Qatari government, which funds the network.
Twitter’s state-affiliated media label is intended to provide users with additional context and information about the funding sources and potential editorial influences of a media outlet.
By designating certain accounts as state-affiliated, Twitter aims to increase transparency and help users make informed decisions about the sources they follow and trust.
However, as the controversy surrounding the labeling of NPR’s account demonstrates, there can be confusion and debate about which media outlets should receive the designation. In March 2021, Twitter labeled the accounts of several U.S.-based media outlets, including NPR, as state-affiliated media.
This decision was met with criticism and confusion, as NPR is a publicly funded organization that is editorially independent and not controlled by the government.
Twitter later reversed its decision to label NPR’s account as state-affiliated media, stating that the company had made an error. This incident highlighted the challenges of accurately identifying state-affiliated media, particularly when it comes to organizations that are publicly funded but editorially independent.
As such, it is important for Twitter to continue refining its policies and criteria for identifying state-affiliated media to ensure that they accurately reflect the sources that may be subject to government influence or control.
It is also important for the platform to be transparent in its labeling practices and to provide clear guidelines and processes for media outlets to appeal or contest the label if they believe it has been applied in error.
State-affiliation labels are intended to provide users with more context about the sources they are reading and help them understand the potential for bias or government influence.
The labels serve as a warning to users to take the information presented with a grain of salt and to verify the sources independently if possible. This is particularly important in today’s media landscape where disinformation and propaganda are pervasive.
Twitter’s algorithm can limit the visibility of content from state-affiliated media, potentially reducing the audience for NPR’s tweets. This could have a significant impact on the network’s ability to reach its audience and fulfill its mission of providing independent journalism.
Once an account is labeled as state-affiliated, it can be “downranked” on the platform, which means it may not be recommended or amplified as much as other accounts. This could limit the reach of the network’s tweets and affect its ability to engage with its audience on Twitter.
Twitter’s rules state that accounts labeled as state-affiliated are subject to “downranking” and are not recommended or amplified on the platform. This means that tweets from these accounts may be less likely to appear in users’ feeds or search results.
Twitter’s policy on state-affiliated media prohibits these accounts from engaging in advertising on the platform. The policy defines state-affiliated media as “outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution.”
While Twitter has not disclosed the full list of accounts that have been labeled as state-affiliated media, the company has stated that it uses a combination of factors to determine this designation. These factors include the outlet’s ownership structure, funding sources, and editorial control.
By labeling state-affiliated media accounts, Twitter aims to provide users with additional context and transparency around the sources of information they are consuming.
However, this policy has faced criticism from some who argue that it is difficult to determine which accounts should be labeled as state-affiliated and that it may inadvertently limit the reach of legitimate news sources.
As mentioned earlier, it is currently unclear whether Musk’s leadership will impact Twitter’s policy on state-affiliated media. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that any changes to this policy could have significant implications for how information is shared and consumed on the platform.
Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, became the CEO of Twitter on April 1, 2023. While there have been no official announcements regarding Twitter’s policies on state-affiliated media since Musk’s appointment, his recent comments and actions indicate a more confrontational approach to the media.
Musk has been known to use his social media platforms, including Twitter, to express his opinions and views publicly. He has criticized the media in the past, alleging bias and unfair coverage.
It is possible that he may continue to take a similar approach as Twitter’s CEO, which could have implications for the platform’s policies on state-affiliated media.
Twitter’s current policies on state-affiliated media aim to provide transparency and context to users when consuming content from these sources. The platform requires state-affiliated media to disclose their affiliations and prohibits the use of fake accounts or misleading information.
It is unclear whether Musk will maintain Twitter’s existing policies on state-affiliated media or implement new ones that reflect his personal beliefs. However, given his past statements on the media, it is possible that he may take a more critical approach to state-affiliated media on the platform.
Ultimately, it remains to be seen how Musk’s leadership will impact Twitter’s handling of state-affiliated media in the future.
NPR has not sent a tweet from its official account since Twitter affixed the label.
It’s understandable that NPR would choose to halt its tweets while the “state-affiliated media” label is in place, as it can damage the credibility of the news organization.
The label could lead some users to assume that NPR’s reporting is not impartial or independent, even though it receives government funding. It remains to be seen whether Twitter will remove the label, and if so, how long it will take for NPR to resume tweeting.
It’s unclear from the reports what Musk’s response was to that specific question. However, in his email to NPR, Musk said that the label for NPR’s account is still being evaluated, suggesting that the decision has not been finalized.
“We’re digging into it,” he wrote.
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