WASHINGTON (AP) — Elon Musk has threatened to reassign NPR’s Twitter account to “another company,” according to the nonprofit news organization, in an ongoing spat between Musk and media groups since his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter. last year.
So will NPR start posting to Twitter again, or should NPR be reassigned to another company? Musk wrote in one email late Tuesday to NPR correspondent Bobby Allen.
NPR stopped tweeting from its main account after Twitter suddenly described NPR’s main account as “state media.” last month, a term that has also been used to designate outlets controlled by or heavily influenced by authoritarian governments. Then Twitter changed the label to “Government Funded Media.”. “
NPR said both labels were inaccurate and undermined its credibility — noting that the nonprofit news company operates independently of the US government. The company said that federal funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting represents less than 1% of NPR’s annual operating budget.
The last tweets on NPR’s main account dated back to April 12 — when the news organization shared a series of other places readers and listeners can find its journalism.
Twitter temporarily slapped other news organizations – including the BBC and PBS – with the “government funded media” label. PBS also stopped using its Twitter account in response.
In an article written by Allyn late Tuesday, NPR’s tech reporter detailed messages sent by the billionaire Twitter owner regarding the NPR account. Musk cited NPR’s choice to stop tweeting as justification for the account reset.
“Our policy is to permanently recycle inactive knobs,” Musk wrote in one email. “Same policy applies to all accounts. No special treatment for NPR.”
according to Twitter online policy, the social media platform determines account inactivity based on logging in – not tweeting. Twitter says that users must log in at least every 30 days to keep their accounts active, and that “accounts may be permanently removed due to prolonged inactivity.”
However, Musk’s comments and actions don’t always match, and it’s not certain if he’ll actually reset the NPR handle, regardless of Twitter’s posted policy on account activity.
When asked by NPR who would be willing to use the NPR Twitter account, Musk replied, “National Pumpkin Radio” along with a fire emoji and a laughing emoji, NPR reports.
It is unknown if NPR has logged into its account, which currently bears a blue check below the previous designation “government-funded media,” since April. The Associated Press reached out to NPR for comment early Wednesday.
Musk dissolved Twitter’s media and public relations department after the acquisition.
As of Wednesday, the NPR Twitter handle still appears to belong to NPR. If Musk reassigns the account to another user, experts warn of misinformation and further loss of credibility.
“It’s possible that losing access to the handle as a form of pressure is really just a continuation of undermining the credibility of sharing information on Twitter,” Zev Sanderson, executive director of the Center on Social Media and Politics at New York University, told The Associated Press.
“For the press, not only are there concerns about brand safety, but in addition, there are a lot of concerns about misinformation potentially being perceived as more credible — because someone[could]be tweeting from an NPR handle when it isn’t. In fact Sanderson added.
It’s the latest blow in what many experts describe as a frightening and uncertain landscape of journalism on Twitter since Musk acquired the company in October.
In addition to removing verifications from news organizations and temporarily adding tags like “government-funded media” to some accounts, Musk suddenly suspended the accounts of individual journalists. who wrote about Twitter late last year.
In response to Musk’s emails on Tuesday, Liz Woolery, digital policy lead for literary organization PEN America, said it was “hard to imagine a more robust example of Musk’s willingness to use Twitter to intimidate and arbitrarily retaliate against any person or organization that harasses him, with or without provocation.”
“It is a purely authoritarian tactic, apparently intended to undermine one of the nation’s leading and most trusted news organizations — an institution of particular importance to rural communities across the United States,” Woolery added in a statement Wednesday to the Associated Press.
AP Technology writers Matt O’Brien and Barbara Ortutay contributed to this report.
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