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NPR, BBC labeled 'government funded media' by Twitter

Muhammed Selim Korkutata / Anadolu Agency

Twitter recently labeled the social media accounts of NPR and the BBC as "government funded media."

Last week, NPR's social media account was labeled "state-affiliated media" by Twitter, but the platform has since updated the label to "government funded media." The same label has also been applied to the BBC and PBS.

The labels appear at the top of the Twitter profiles and on every tweet posted by the organizations.

According to Twitter policy, labels are added to government accounts to "provide additional context for accounts heavily engaged in geopolitics and diplomacy."

Accounts marked as "state-affiliated" are profiles "controlled by certain official representatives of governments, state-affiliated media entities and individuals associated with those entities."

"State-affiliated media is defined 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," Twitter policy states. "Accounts belonging to state-affiliated media entities, their editors-in-chief, and/or their prominent staff may be labeled. We will also add labels to Tweets that share links to state-affiliated media websites."

An archived version of the social media platform's guidelines stated that neither NPR nor the BBC is considered government or state-affiliated because they maintain editorial independence. However, as of last week, Twitter removed that language.

Twitter has traditionally used the "state-affiliated" label to designate media accounts controlled by foreign governments, including Russia's RT and China's Xinhua.

John Lansing, NPR President and CEO, stated last week, "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."

"NPR and our member stations are supported by millions of listeners who depend on us for the independent, fact-based journalism we provide. It is unacceptable for Twitter to label us this way. A vigorous, vibrant free press is essential to the health of our democracy," he added.

NPR has avoided posting from its Twitter account, which has over 8 million followers, since the platform added the label. Instead, the outlet updated its profile to read, "NPR is an independent news organization committed to informing the public about the world around us. You can find us every other place you read the news."

"NPR changed its Twitter bio yesterday and stopped tweeting from the main @NPR account after they attached that false label to it because each tweet we publish would carry it," NPR chief communications officer Isabel Lara told the Daily Beast. "We have paused tweeting from that account until we hear back from Twitter on this. We've continued tweeting from other accounts that aren't mislabeled."

When challenged about the label by NPR reporter Bobby Allyn, Elon Musk replied, "The operating principle at new Twitter is simply fair and equal treatment, so if we label non-US accounts as govt, then we should do the same for US, but it sounds like that might not be accurate here."

Journalist Jake Kanter pushed back on the "government funded" label placed on the BBC's account, tweeting to Musk, "The @BBC is not funded by the UK government. It is funded by the British public through a system known as the licence fee. The BBC's operations and editorial decision-making are entirely independent of the government."

The BBC said it is "speaking to Twitter to resolve this issue as soon as possible."

"The BBC is, and always has been, independent. We are funded by the British public through the licence fee," it added.

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