Twitter on Tuesday night affixed a “state-affiliated media” label — a marker used to help users identify outlets editorially controlled by governments — to NPR’s main account, despite previous policies specifically noting that NPR was not covered by that category fell.
In a statement shared Wednesday, NPR CEO John Lansing described the move as “unacceptable” and inapplicable to NPR, which draws support from listeners and delivers “independent, fact-based journalism.”
“We were disturbed to see last night that Twitter has labeled NPR as ‘state-affiliated media,’ a description that, under Twitter’s own guidelines, does not apply to NPR,” Lansing said. “NPR stands for freedom of speech and holding the powerful accountable. It is unacceptable for Twitter to label us that way. A strong, vibrant free press is essential to the health of our democracy.”
NPR did not receive any previous communications from Twitter about the label on Tuesday and requests to have it removed have not been answered, NPR’s chief communications officer, Isabel Lara, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Under Twitter’s guidelines, state-affiliated media outlets are certain as those “where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial means, direct or indirect political pressure, and/or control over production and distribution.” Outlets like Russia Today and China’s Xinhua News have received such labels on Twitter.
Prior to Tuesday’s change, the guidelines also noted that “state-funded media organizations with editorial independence, such as the BBC in the UK or NPR in the US, for example, are not defined as state-affiliated media for the purposes of this policy.” As of Wednesday, the reference has been to NPR DELETED.
Organizations such as PEN America have called on Twitter for the label to be removed from NPR’s account.
“Publicly available sources indicate that about 15 percent of NPR’s total budget is taxpayer dollars approved by Congress, and make it clear that the U.S. government does not exercise any editorial control over NPR. Twitter’s unilateral labeling of NPR as state-affiliated media, similar to Russia Today, is a dangerous move that could further undermine public confidence in reliable news sources,” said Liz Woolery, PEN America’s digital policy leader. “It is a gift to purveyors of disinformation and to authoritarian regimes around the world. Twitter needs to change course and remove this designation from NPR immediately.”