Twitter is no longer labeling any accounts as “state-affiliated media” or “government-funded media,” a change that comes after organizations including NPR and PBS objected to the descriptions from the Elon Musk-owned social network and have suspended their activity on Twitter in protest.
According to NPR reporter Bobby Allyn, when he emailed Musk to inquire about the decision to drop media labels, the CEO replied, “This was Walter Isaacson’s suggestion.” Isaacson, who has penned biographies of Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin, is working on a book about Musk.
On Friday, Twitter appeared to have removed all “state-affiliated” and “government-funded” labels from the site, including for accounts operated by NPR, PBS, the BBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC), the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC), Russia Today (RT), China Xinhua News, CGTN (China Global Television Network) and Iran’s Press TV.
Meanwhile, Twitter recently removed “visibility filtering” restrictions on government accounts in Russia, China and Iran at the direction of Musk, NPR reported, citing two anonymous ex-Twitter employees. Those were intended to limit the spread of state-sponsored propaganda from those regimes.
An email sent to Twitter’s PR account asking for comment elicited no response.
The controversy over Twitter’s labels on publicly funded media accounts came after the social network added labels to several organizations that previously didn’t have such an appellation. That included designating NPR’s main account as “US state-affiliated media”; subsequently, Twitter altered that to read “government-funded media.” NPR was not mollified, saying it was suspending Twitter activity because the label “undermine[s] our credibility by falsely implying that we are not editorially independent.” According to NPR, less than 1% of its annual operating budget on average comes from federal grants. PBS followed suit in boycotting Twitter over the “government-funded media” label.
Twitter’s eradication of the “state-affiliated media” and “government-funded media” labels Friday came the day after the social network revoked verified blue check-mark status from thousands of accounts belonging to celebrities, athletes, politicians and other “notable” figures granted under the company’s previous ownership. The move was designed to boost revenue from subscriptions to Twitter Blue ($8/month and up), while Musk has also framed it as democratizing the user-verification process.
Some high-profile users still had the badges following the purge; it wasn’t clear which ones are actually paying Twitter for the badge. Musk said he’s “personally” paying for Twitter Blue on behalf of LeBron James, Stephen King and William Shatner, each of whom had complained about the move to charge for verification.