The Twitter account for National Public Radio has been labeled with the “state-affiliated media” designation used for Russian and Chinese propaganda, but Musk’s critics point out that his companies get a hell of a lot more federal subsidies than NPR does.
One can’t help but get a sense that many of Elon Musk’s out-of-the-blue provocations on the Twitter platform he now owns are just distractions meant to deflect attention from the site’s failure to execute on technical goals. For instance: Last weekend was supposed to be the removal of blue checks from verified accounts, so that only people who paid the $8 a month subscription would be left with blue checks. Yet the deadline came and went, and the platform has still not removed the blue checks from previously “verified accounts.” So Musk huffily removed only the New York Times’ blue check, apparently just to prove he could do it to someone.
Another completely unprovoked bit of shit-stirring developed Tuesday, as KPIX reports that Twitter labeled the National Public Radio (NPR) account as "U.S. state-affiliated media," which KPIX explains is “the same icon placed on outlets like Russia's state-owned news agency TASS or China's New China News Agency, the official state news agency of the People's Republic of China.”
We will get meta again and refer to NPR’s own reporting on NPR being labeled as “state-affiliated media.”
"NPR operates independently of the U.S. government," that outlet says. "And while federal money is important to the overall public media system, NPR gets less than 1% of its annual budget, on average, from federal sources."
"NPR officials have asked Twitter to remove the label," NPR adds. "They initially assumed it was applied by mistake, NPR spokesperson Isabel Lara said. 'We were not warned. It happened quite suddenly [Tuesday] night.'"
NPR stands for freedom of speech & holding the powerful accountable. A vigorous, vibrant free press is essential to the health of our democracy.— John Lansing (@johnlansing) April 5, 2023
My full statement on the recent inaccurate Twitter label below: pic.twitter.com/kdusUNtNUo
NPR CEO and president John Lansing said in a Wednesday statement that “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.”
Yesterday, @elonmusk’s Twitter labeled NPR “state-affiliated media,” even though the company’s own policy stated the organization shouldn’t be labeled as such because it has editorial independence (left).— David Gura (@davidgura) April 5, 2023
Hours later, Twitter removed the reference to NPR in the policy (right). pic.twitter.com/cAXoXYFQ2G
About those guidelines: As seen above, Twitter actively changed their guidelines simply to remove NPR. The guidelines originally said “State-financed media organizations with editorial independence, like the BBC in the UK or NPR in the US for example, will not be labeled.” The site apparently scrubbed NPR from that description hours after slapping the “‘state-affiliated” tag on their account.
This is just silly.— Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) April 5, 2023
If NPR receiving less than 1% of its revenue from federal government programs makes it "state-affiliated media," does Tesla accepting a $465m loan from DOE and benefiting from EV consumer subsidies make it "state-affiliated enterprise"? pic.twitter.com/9FrSFC2AFz
NPR apparently operates on a roughly $300 million a year budget, or at least, its revenue and expenses are both at around $300 million. So that’s about $3 million from the federal government per year, if we take them at the 1% figure. Meanwhile, Musk's own companies SpaceX and Tesla have received more than $5 billion in government support, raising some fair questions about who, exactly, is the “state-affiliated” one here.
Screenshot via NPR