By Dave Van Zandt
In a move that has sparked concerns about the public’s confidence in reliable news sources, Twitter has labeled National Public Radio (NPR) as “state-affiliated media.” This label is typically reserved for official state mouthpieces and propaganda outlets in countries like Russia and China.
The move came after Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, quoted the definition of state-affiliated media in the company’s guidelines and tweeted that it seemed accurate in response to NPR’s labeling. NPR’s CEO, however, called the labeling “unacceptable,” and the literary organization PEN America has called on Twitter to reverse the move. They emphasized that NPR maintains editorial independence and that Twitter’s decision could undermine public confidence in reliable news sources.
NPR operates independently of the US government, and while federal funding is essential to the overall public media system, NPR gets less than 1% of its annual budget from federal sources. Despite this, Twitter has labeled NPR as “state-affiliated media.”
NPR officials have asked Twitter to remove the label.
The full effects of the label are not yet known, but it could reduce NPR’s visibility on the platform. Twitter’s policy states that it will not recommend or amplify accounts or their tweets with these labels to people.
Critics of the move saw it as another sign of Twitter’s troubled relationship with the media, which has deteriorated since Elon Musk bought Twitter last year. The label could also muddy the waters in a news environment where it’s already difficult to decipher which outlets are reliable and have editorial independence.
Twitter’s decision to label NPR as “state-affiliated media” has caused concern among journalists, media organizations, and the public. It remains to be seen whether Twitter will reverse the move or whether it will stand by its decision, which could have a lasting impact on the public’s perception of the media.
Media Bias Fact Check always includes ownership and funding in its source reviews. As such, NPR is not a state-influenced media outlet. Voice of America and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty are state-affiliated in the USA as the government funds them through the U.S. Agency for Global Media. The USAGM is led by a single chief executive officer appointed by the president of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Based on this, these sources tend to promote the agenda of the administration in power, whereas NPR is not influenced in the same way. Elon Musk’s label is not accurate.
Elon Musk is arguably a very smart man, obviously a successful entrepreneur, and probably has good intentions for the world, but he frequently acts like a petulant child. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn his comment was in response to something negative said or implied about him.
Such an irresponsible assertion, especially at a time when so many people are distrustful of media, doesn’t help anyone but perhaps himself. My own opinion of news sources comes not from a single person with a big mouth and a big platform, but from data such as you gather and disseminate here at MBFC. Many news consumers, however, are obviously not so careful.
Intelligence doesn’t necessarily imply knowledge nor accurate ideas, and Musk keeps proving this point by making insinuations (and sometimes authoritative assertions) in areas he knows little to nothing about. Maybe his well-earned successes have made him a legend in his own mind. I really wish he’d just stick to SpaceX and Tesla, and quit trying to also run the country from his soapbox.