Wednesday, April 12, 2023
HomeTechUS public broadcaster NPR leaves Twitter after spat with Elon Musk

US public broadcaster NPR leaves Twitter after spat with Elon Musk

Public broadcaster National Public Radio has decided to stop using Twitter, becoming the first big US news organisation to go silent on the platform, a week after a “state-affiliated media” label was added to its account.

“NPR’s organisational 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,” chief executive John Lansing told staff on Wednesday.

Twitter’s actions “to tarnish the independence of any public media institution are exceptionally harmful and set a dangerous precedent”, he said.

Twitter’s guidelines define “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”. Other organisations that Twitter has labelled “state-affiliated media” include Russia’s RT News and China’s Xinhua.

It is the latest conflict to erupt between news publishers and Twitter under the new ownership of billionaire Elon Musk, who has pushed forward a series of changes to the site since buying it for $44bn in October. Musk, who is also chief executive of electric carmaker Tesla, has been vocal about his dislike for the “mainstream media”.

Earlier this week, NPR’s main Twitter account was labelled “Government-funded Media”. Similar labels were recently added to one of the BBC’s main Twitter accounts — which provoked protestations from the UK public broadcaster — as well as accounts belonging to US public broadcasters PBS and Voice of America.

Musk said on Tuesday that he planned to change the BBC’s Twitter label to “publicly funded” media in an acknowledgment that it was not funded directly by government but rather by a licence fee, a move the UK broadcaster welcomed.

The clash with NPR threatens to further alienate media organisations from Twitter just as Musk is battling to bring its finances under control after many advertisers pulled spending from the platform. Twitter also faces $1.5bn of annual interest payments on $13bn of debt Musk used to fund the acquisition.

In a Twitter Spaces interview on Tuesday, Musk said the company was “roughly breaking even” following a cost-cutting push. He added that most advertisers had now returned, following initial concerns over his decision to relax its moderation policies.

At a conference with Morgan Stanley last month, Musk accused the media of “controlling the narrative”, adding that he planned for Twitter to become “a forum for citizen journalism”.

Paul Barrett, deputy director of the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, said NPR’s departure from Twitter “means users of the platform will have less reliable news and could foreshadow similar moves by other serious news sources”.

Separately on Wednesday, the Republican-led House judiciary committee subpoenaed the Federal Trade Commission over its probe of Twitter since Musk’s takeover.

In a letter shared by the committee, its chair, Jim Jordan, said the regulator had failed to co-operate with requests for information related to its investigation. A recent government subcommittee report showed the FTC had “made inappropriate and burdensome demands coinciding” with Musk’s acquisition, he added.

The FTC confirmed it had received the subpoena and said it made multiple offers to brief the judiciary committee on its investigation.

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