Backlash Prompts Twitter to Drop State-Affiliated Media Label

Twitter has reversed its decision to label public broadcasters as “government funded” or “state affiliated” — designations that under previous ownership were reserved for propaganda arms. The Friday move came after NPR and Canada’s CBC paused their Twitter accounts in protest. The BBC was also hit with a state-sponsored appellation. Outlets that challenged the state-sponsored appellation say only part of their funding comes from the government, and stress their terms include editorial independence. The reversal came one day after Twitter began removing the blue verification check marks from the accounts of thousands of non-paying users.

The removal of what the media outlets contend were misleading labels “was the latest shift that Twitter has made abruptly and without explanation under the leadership of its owner, Elon Musk,” according to The New York Times, although NPR did offer an explanation of sorts, saying Musk sent them an email indicating “this was Walter Isaacson’s suggestion.”

Isaacson — former editor of Time and author of biographies on Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs — is currently working on a book about the mercurial billionaire, to be published by Simon & Schuster.

On April 12, NPR became the first major news outlet “to go silent” on Twitter, announcing it would “no longer post fresh content to its 52 official Twitter feeds” as a result of being falsely labeled “U.S. state-affiliated media.” Twitter pivoted to “Government-Funded Media” for both NPR and PBS, which also said it was quitting Twitter.

NPR says it receives “less than 1 percent of its annual operating budget in the form of grants from the government-funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting and other federal agencies and departments,” NYT writes, explaining that “its two largest sources of revenue are corporate sponsorships and fees paid by member stations, which rely heavily on donations from listeners.”

Federal funding for PBS amounts to only about 15 percent of its total revenue, the broadcaster said.

A statement issued last week by the Global Task Force — representing the national public broadcasters of countries including Canada, Britain and France — objected to Twitter labeling some members as “Government-Funded Media,” claiming the disclaimer appeared “without warning or consultation” to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio New Zealand and the Korean Broadcasting System, in addition to the CBC.

Twitter had briefly labeled the CBC “69 percent Government-Funded Media” before abandoning the complicated task of individually apportioning each entity’s funding source and scrapping the plan in its entirety.

“The page on Twitter’s website that detailed its policy on media labels has been removed,” NYT reports, noting that “the ‘state-affiliated media’ label has also been removed from the Twitter accounts of China’s state news agency Xinhua News Agency and the Russian state media outlet RT (formerly Russia Today).

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