NPR fires back as Twitter hands it the “state-affiliated media” label

National Public Radio’s media service hit back at Twitter Inc. today after the social media platform made the surprise move of labeling it a state-affiliated media outlet.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., NPR has more than 1,000 public radio stations in the United States. It was created as an act of Congress and receives a portion of its budget from the federal government, but only about 1%. NPR has always said it operates as an independent entity, certainly not as the mouthpiece of the government.

NPR is now tarred with the same brush as China’s Xinhua news agency and Russia’s RT, Russia Today. The former is, according to Reporters Without Borders, “the world’s largest propaganda agency,” while the latter has spent much of its existence denying that it is a mouthpiece for the Russian government. The British Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC, has also faced criticism that it regularly delivers doses of bias.

It’s a murky area and may deserve some attention, but a certain amount of evidence should be required to be labeled state media. The BBC, by the way, is not labeled a state media on Twitter. So why is NPR suddenly tarnished with such a name?

Twitter previously noted why the BBC and NPR did not receive the label, saying they were “state-funded media with editorial independence”. It appears that Twitter just removed this link to NPR, but not to the BBC, which receives 70% of its funding through public license fees. Does that mean new evidence has come to light? It seems not, so it’s not easy to figure out what wind blew Twitter to make him change his stance.

“We were disturbed to see that Twitter last night labeled NPR as a ‘state-affiliated media outlet,'” NPR CEO John Lansing said after it happened. “NPR stands for free speech and holding the powerful accountable. To be labeled like this by Twitter is unacceptable.”

In an article published by NPR today, the service said executives initially believed Twitter had made a mistake. “We were not warned,” said the spokesperson. “It happened suddenly last night.”

When NPR asked Twitter for clarification, it got a poo emoji in response, something Twitter has been doing for some time, likely inspired by the often-offensive, sometimes media-unfriendly Commander-in-Chief Elon Musk. The only thing Musk has said on the matter is in a tweet, where he wrote that it “seems accurate” above the definition of state-affiliated media. It certainly won’t be the last word or emoji.

Photo: James Cridland/Flickr

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