Twitter designates NPR as 'US state-affiliated media'

'It is unacceptable for Twitter to label us this way,' the public broadcaster's CEO said.


Twitter has added a label to the main account of NPR to designate the public broadcaster as "US state-affiliated media." Until now, such labels have typically been reserved for state-run organizations such as RT and Sputnik in Russia and China's Xinhua News Agency. The labels appear on every tweet from accounts they're applied to.

“We were disturbed to see last night that Twitter has labeled NPR as ‘state-affiliated media,’ a description that, per Twitter’s own guidelines, does not apply to NPR," the broadcaster's CEO John Lansing said in a statement. "NPR and our member stations are supported by millions of listeners who depend on us for the independent, fact-based journalism we provide. NPR stands for freedom of speech and holding the powerful accountable. It is unacceptable for Twitter to label us this way. A vigorous, vibrant free press is essential to the health of our democracy.”

As Mediaite points out, Twitter has edited its guidelines regarding the "state-affiliated media" label since applying it to NPR's account. "State-financed media organizations with editorial independence, like the BBC in the UK or NPR in the US for example, are not defined as state-affiliated media," the guidelines page read on Tuesday, according to a Wayback Machine snapshot. By Wednesday morning, Twitter had removed the text "or NPR in the US." Twitter no longer has a communications department that can be reached for comment.

Elon Musk, who took over Twitter in October, noted the change to NPR's account. In response to a user who gave him acknowledgment for the move, Musk tweeted a portion of the state-affiliated media policy that reads "State-affiliated media is defined 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." Musk wrote that the definition "seems accurate" with regards to NPR.

On Tuesday, Musk responded to a tweet that criticized NPR over a report suggesting that “European right-wing politicians [are] lobbing a conspiracy theory that elites want people to eat bugs.” He replied with an exclamation point. The user who posted the thread went on to claim that "NPR is worse than the propaganda of Maoist schoolchildren during the cultural revolution.”

NPR, which is an independent non-profit, says that on average, less than one percent of its annual operating budget comes from government grants. Over the last five fiscal years, around 70 percent of its revenues have come from corporate sponsors and core and programming fees paid by member organizations. Meanwhile, Voice of America, a broadcaster that is owned by the US government, does not have a state-affiliated media label on its Twitter account.