Twitter has swapped its labeling of NPR as “state-affiliated media” to “government-funded media” following uproar over the designation that had briefly put the news site on par with propaganda outlets in China and Russia.
This fresh labeling, which is also now stamped on the U.K.’s BBC Twitter account, appeared on Saturday, according to Bloomberg News. The update follows some reported back-and-forth between Twitter CEO Elon Musk and an NPR reporter over the designation and Musk’s questionable understanding of it.
In their email conversations, Musk was described by NPR as appearing to not know the difference between public media and state-controlled media, despite him publicly endorsing the labeling on Twitter after it was added. In an April 5 tweet he said the designation “seems accurate.”
NPR, which has not tweeted since it was first labeled as “state-affiliated media” on April 4, is a nonprofit media organization with less than 1% of its annual operating budget coming from federal agencies and departments.
An NPR representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this new “government-funded” label, which the BBC on Monday said it wants removed from its own account “as soon as possible.”
The British media outlet argued in a statement to HuffPost that “it is funded by the British public through a license fee,” one that is set by the government, and that it “always has been independent.”
“We are speaking to Twitter to resolve this issue as soon as possible,” it said.
Musk reportedly hit back at the BBC, stating in an email that, although he is a fan of its content, he is trying to shine a light on media bias through financial transparency.
“All organizations have bias, some obviously much more than others. I should note that I follow BBC News on Twitter, because I think it is among the least biased,” he said, according to the BBC. He made similar comments on Twitter.
Curiously, the BBC’s actual news and sports accounts have not been given the new label, only its smaller @BBC account. That account primarily shares updates about BBC-produced programs, such as non-news TV programs and podcasts.
Twitter’s rules and guidelines have been capriciously changed since Musk’s takeover of the company in October. Some of these changes seem to have happened on a whim and have targeted the news media.
Prior to last week, Twitter recognized state-affiliated media to be organizations in which “the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution.” This policy further specified that NPR and the BBC have editorial independence and are not state-affiliated media.
This policy was quietly updated online ― around the time of last week’s labeling ― so that it excluded NPR.
NPR President and CEO John Lansing last week said it was “disturbed” to see the labeling and repeated that it is not in line with Twitter’s past policy that recognized NPR’s editorial independence.
“NPR and our Member stations are supported by millions of listeners who depend on us for the independent, fact-based journalism we provide,” Lansing said. “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.”
Twitter laid off its entire media relations team following Musk’s takeover, and the company now only responds to emailed requests for comment with a poop emoji.