National Public Radio is publicly protesting after Twitter slapped a “state-affiliated media” label to its account on Tuesday and responded to its email seeking comment with a poop emoji.
NPR, which has published countless stories critical of Twitter since billionaire Elon Musk took over the platform, complained in a news article Wednesday that the “state-affiliated media” tag is the same label “Twitter uses to designate official state mouthpieces and propaganda outlets in countries such as Russia and China.”
NPR is a left-wing nonprofit media organization that was established by an act of Congress and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. Twitter’s move came just days after it stripped The New York Times of its verification check mark.
NPR officials have reportedly asked Twitter to remove the label.
“NPR operates independently of the U.S. government,” the outlet argued. “And while federal money is important to the overall public media system, NPR gets less than 1% of its annual budget, on average, from federal sources.”
In a heavily ratioed tweet, NPR CEO John Lansing stated: “NPR stands for freedom of speech and holding the powerful accountable. It is unacceptable for Twitter to label us this way. A vigorous, vibrant free press is essential to the health of our democracy.”
NPR stands for freedom of speech & holding the powerful accountable. A vigorous, vibrant free press is essential to the health of our democracy.
My full statement on the recent inaccurate Twitter label below: pic.twitter.com/kdusUNtNUo
— John Lansing (@johnlansing) April 5, 2023
In response, Twitter users reminded Lansing that NPR had an opportunity to hold the powerful Biden family accountable before the 2020 election, but passed because Hunter Biden’s laptop—which potentially exposed hundreds of Biden family crimes—was just a “distraction.”
“We don’t waste our time on stories that are not really stories and we don’t want to waste our listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions,” NPR lamely explained at the time.
You have lost your credibility. pic.twitter.com/0c7tDoZiC3
— Jimmy Gandhi (@jimmygandhi) April 5, 2023
Stop taking government money if you are a free press! pic.twitter.com/WlTMG4OvMB
— Ole (@RogueOle) April 5, 2023
In response to an NPR email seeking comment on this story and requesting details about what might have led to the new designation, the Twitter’s press account auto-replied with a poop emoji. The Associated Press ran into the same issue when seeking comment on the story.
“Asked for comment, Twitter’s press office responded with an automated poop emoji,” the AP reported. Twitter has reportedly been been sending this particular message to reporters for weeks.
In response to a tweet about the change, Musk posted an image of a screenshot showing Twitter’s definition of state-affiliated media, with a short message: “Seems accurate.”
Seems accurate pic.twitter.com/nx5TmJY7GX
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 5, 2023
According to NPR, Twitter only very recently changed its policy on the designation.
As recently as Tuesday, Twitter’s policy page stated explicitly that NPR would not be included in this label — before the wording was altered to remove NPR.
“State-financed media organizations with editorial independence, like 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,” the document said.
That language echoes an explanation that Twitter gave in 2020, when it announced the state-affiliated media label. At least one page on the Twitter site still listed NPR as an exception as of late morning Wednesday.
Those criticizing the new label include Yoel Roth, who was Twitter’s head of trust and safety for nearly eight years. He resigned from Twitter last November.
“Twitter’s decision to label NPR as a state media outlet flies in the face of years of research, all evidence about NPR’s funding and governance, and Twitter’s own policies and principles,” Roth said in a message to NPR.
Roth has previously said he left Twitter because he saw the platform being undermined by “capricious decision-making.” In this instance, he sees something more pernicious.
“Establishing a false equivalency between public broadcasters and editorial control of media by government is misleading,” he said, “and undermines the essential work of providing transparency about state-backed propaganda efforts around the world.”
NPR neglected to mention that Roth has been criticized for allowing child porn to flourish on Twitter, while banning conservative accounts, including sitting members of congress like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.)
“You permanently banned my Twitter account but you allowed child porn all over Twitter,” MTG fumed during a House hearing in February. “Twitter had become a platform, you said, ‘connecting queer young adults.’ You also wrote on Twitter in 2010, ‘can high school students ever meaningfully consent to sex with their teachers?’”
Greene pointed out that when Elon Musk took over Twitter, he quickly banned over 44,000 child porn accounts.