Twitter erases state-affiliated, government-funded labels from NPR and other accounts

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This illustration photo taken in Los Angeles on April 20, 2023, shows Elon Musk’s Twitter account on a smartphone. (Photo by CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Twitter has stopped labeling media organizations as “state-affiliated” and “government-funded,” including NPR, which recently quit the platform over how it was denoted.

In a move late Thursday night, the social media platform nixed all labels for a number of media accounts it had tagged, dropping NPR’s “government-funded” tag along with the “state-affiliated” identifier for outlets such as Russia’s RT and Sputnik, as well as China’s Xinhua.

CEO Elon Musk told NPR reporter Bobby Allyn via email early Friday morning that Twitter has dropped “all media labels” and that “this was Walter Isaacson’s suggestion.”

Isaacson, who wrote the biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs, is said to be finishing a biography on Musk.

The policy page describing the labels also disappeared from Twitter’s website. The labeling change came after Twitter removed blue checkmarks denoting an account was verified from scores of feeds earlier on Thursday.

At the beginning of April, Twitter added “state-affiliated media” to NPR’s official account. That label was misleading: NPR receives less than 1 percent of its $300 million annual budget from the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting and does not publish news at the government’s direction.

Twitter also tacked the tag onto other outlets that receive a small portion of their funding from the government such as BBC, PBS and CBC, Canada’s national public broadcaster.

Twitter then changed the label to “Government-funded.”

Last week, NPR exited the platform, becoming the largest media organization to quit the Musk-owned site, which he was forced to buy last October.

“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,” NPR CEO John Lansing wrote in an email to staff explaining the decision to leave.

NPR has not yet responded to a request for comment.

CBC spokesperson Leon Mar said in an email the Canadian broadcaster is “reviewing this latest development and will leave [its] Twitter accounts on pause before taking any next steps.”

Disclosure: This story was reported and written by NPR reporter Mary Yang and edited by Business Editor Lisa Lambert. Under NPR’s protocol for reporting on itself, no corporate official or news executive reviewed this story before it was posted publicly.

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