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Twitter removes all labels about government ties from NPR and other outlets

This illustration photo taken in Los Angeles on April 20, 2023, shows Elon Musk's account on a smartphone. Under Musk as CEO, Twitter has changed how it labels accounts.
AFP via Getty Images
This illustration photo taken in Los Angeles on April 20, 2023, shows Elon Musk's account on a smartphone. Under Musk as CEO, Twitter has changed how it labels accounts.

Updated April 21, 2023 at 2:55 PM ET

Twitter has stopped labeling media organizations as "state-affiliated" and "government-funded," including NPR, which recently quit the platform over how it was denoted.

In a move late Thursday night, the social media platform nixed all labels for a number of media accounts it had tagged, dropping NPR's "government-funded" label along with the "state-affiliated" identifier for outlets such as Russia's RT and Sputnik, as well as China's Xinhua.

CEO Elon Musk told NPR reporter Bobby Allyn via email early Friday morning that Twitter has dropped all media labels and that "this was Walter Isaacson's suggestion."

Isaacson, who wrote the biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs, is said to be finishing a biography on Musk.

The policy page describing the labels also disappeared from Twitter's website. The labeling change came after Twitter removed blue checkmarks denoting an account was verified from scores of feeds earlier on Thursday.

At the beginning of April, Twitter added "state-affiliated media" to NPR's official account. That label was misleading: NPR receives less than 1% of its $300 million annual budget from the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting and does not publish news at the government's direction.

Twitter also tacked the tag onto other outlets such as BBC, PBS and CBC, Canada's national public broadcaster, which receive varying amounts of public funding but maintain editorial independence.

Twitter then changed the label to "Government-funded."

Last week, NPR exited the platform, becoming the largest media organization to quit the Musk-owned site, which he says he was forced to buy last October.

"It would be a disservice to the serious work you all do here to continue to share it on a platform that is associating the federal charter for public media with an abandoning of editorial independence or standards," NPR CEO John Lansing wrote in an email to staff explaining the decision to leave.

NPR spokeswoman Isabel Lara said the network did not have anything new to say on the matter. Last week, Lansing told NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik in an interview that even if Twitter were to drop the government-funded designation altogether, the network would not immediately return to the platform.

CBC spokesperson Leon Mar said in an email the Canadian broadcaster is "reviewing this latest development and will leave [its] Twitter accounts on pause before taking any next steps."

Disclosure: This story was reported and written by NPR news assistant Mary Yang and edited by Business Editor Lisa Lambert. Under NPR's protocol for reporting on itself, no corporate official or news executive reviewed this story before it was posted publicly.

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Mary Yang
Mary Yang is an intern on the Business Desk where she covers technology, media, labor and the economy. She comes to NPR from Foreign Policy where she covered the beginning of Russia's war in Ukraine and built a beat on Southeast Asia, Asia and the Pacific Islands.