Twitter CEO Elon Musk has changed the way National Public Radio is listed on the social media platform yet again, slapping a “government funded” label on the organization’s Twitter account. It seems like the label will soon be applied to other media outlets.
Twitter caused some controversy this past week when the social media platform added a label to NPR’s account declaring it was “state-affiliated media.” The move put NPR, which receives some funding from the government, on par with Russia’s RT and China’s Xinhua propaganda outlets. But Twitter has changed NPR’s label to read “government funded” on Saturday, leaving the “state affiliated” label on Xinhua and RT. For now, at least.
NPR is funded by roughly 1-2% federal funding, with the rest coming from fees and corporate sponsorships. New York Times. NPR receives some funding from the government, but it is independent of any state funding.
Australia’s ABC News and the UK’s BBC are just two examples of state-funded broadcasters that doesn’t necessarily agree with the sitting Prime Ministers of their respective countries on everything at any given time. The BBC and Australia’s ABC don’t have any label on Twitter, but that might change according to the latest reports.
NPR’s Bobby Allyn, a technology reporter for the media outlet, tweeted on Saturday that Elon Musk told him Twitter would be applying the “government funded” label to “a larger number of institutions.”
Allyn was quick to point out that Tesla has also benefited from government funding, but that isn’t disclosed on Musk’s social media network.
“Tesla, which has received billions of dollars in government subsidies over the years, does not appear to have the label,” Allyn tweeted on Saturday.
While Tesla has indeed historically benefited from government funding, Musk’s other company SpaceX is arguably much more dependent on government money. SpaceX is privately held, so it’s tough to know for sure, but some back-of-the-napkin estimates have estimated about 98% of SpaceX funding comes from government contracts.
It’s not immediately clear when the “government funded” label will start popping up on other Twitter accounts. Twitter replied to Saturday’s request for comments with an automatic email known as the “poop emoji” that Musk set up to reply to all reporters.
In recent weeks Musk caused a lot of controversy, and not only with his new NPR labeling strategy. Musk started putting a warning on all Twitter links going out to Substack, the writing platform that’s become incredibly popular. That choice cause Matt Taibbi, a journalist who worked on the so-called Twitter Files, to say he was leaving Twitter on Friday since it meant he couldn’t effectively share his work.
“It turns out Twitter is upset about the new Substack Notes feature, which they see as a hostile rival. When I asked how I was supposed to market my work, I was given the option of posting my articles on Twitter instead of Substack,” Taibbi wrote.
But Musk disagreed with Taibbi’s characterization, insisting Twitter wasn’t blocking links to Substack. And while it’s technically true that you could still get to the link, most normal people wouldn’t click on it simply because Twitter made it look like something that would harm your computer.
On top of all that, Twitter has stopped anyone from retweeting or even liking tweets with Substack posts, a bizarre move considering Substack Notes is still a beta project that most people can’t even access yet. Musk seems to be fighting friendly investors like Paul Graham, who supports Substack.
“Elon has asked me to ‘please tell people on Twitter that you are an investor in the company trying to kill Twitter,’ so for anyone who didn’t already know, Substack is a YC company,” Graham tweeted on Saturday.
“It’s not because I’m an investor that I think it’s a mistake to penalize links to Substack though. This is a bad way to manage a forum. This is a way to put users’ interests ahead of yours. I would tell Substack the same thing,” Graham continued.
Musk has clearly decided to make Twitter his own platform. The billionaire bought the social media site for $44 billion back in October 2022 and he’s free to slap labels on whichever accounts he likes while blocking links to anything on a whim. But it’s hard to see how he’s going to make his users very happy by severely hampering usability of the site in increasingly bizarre ways.