“Should we all join them?”: NPR first major news outlet to leave Twitter over Elon Musk

NPR on Wednesday announced plans to leave Twitter—the social media platform now owned by billionaire Elon Musk—after being branded last week with a “state-affiliated media” label that, after backlash, was replaced with “government-funded media.”

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 media organization 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,” the statement added. “We are turning away from Twitter but not from our audiences and communities. There are plenty of ways to stay connected and keep up with NPR‘s news, music, and cultural content.”

After the platform’s initial decision last week, NPR president and CEO John Lansing said that “we were disturbed to see… that Twitter has labeled NPR as ‘state-affiliated media,’ a description that, per Twitter’s own guidelines, does not apply to NPR.”

Others also criticized applying that specific label to NPR—including Liz Woolery, PEN America’s digital policy leader, who called it “a dangerous move that could further undermine public confidence in reliable news sources.”

In an email exchange, an NPR reporter informed Musk that—like other U.S. public media—only about 1% of NPR‘s budget comes from the government, while about 40% is from corporate sponsors and 31% is from local stations’ programming fees.

Musk reportedly wrote to the journalist that “the operating principle at new Twitter is simply fair and equal treatment, so if we label non-U.S. accounts as [government], then we should do the same for U.S., but it sounds like that might not be accurate here.”

Twitter then updated the label on NPR‘s main account—which has 8.8 million followers—to government-affiliated, a label that has also been applied to the BBC, which has disputed the platform’s decision.

“The BBC operates through a Royal Charter agreed with the U.K. government, which states the corporation ‘must be independent,'” the British outlet explained Wednesday. “Its public service output is funded by U.K. households via a TV license fee, as well as income from commercial operations.”

In a wide-ranging Tuesday interview with the BBC, Musk said: “We want [the tag] as truthful and accurate as possible. We’re adjusting the label to [the BBC being] publicly funded. We’ll try to be accurate.”

Since Musk finalized his $44 billion purchase of Twitter in October, when he was the world’s richest man, “it has been quite a rollercoaster,” Musk admitted to the BBC. “It’s been really quite a stressful situation.”

The billionaire has come under fire for various platform policy and business decisions, from suspending journalists reporting on the movements of his private jet to laying off Twitter staff. While there was an initial exodus of advertisers, Musk said Tuesday that “I think almost all advertisers have come back or said they are going to come back.”

However, the battle over how or even whether to label publicly funded media and NPR‘s decision to become the first major media outlet to ditch Twitter have some users, such as the U.S.-based advocacy group Free Press, asking, “Should we all join them?”


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