WASHINGTON (AP) — Elon Musk has threatened to reassign NPR’s Twitter account to “another company,” according to the nonprofit news organization, in an ongoing feud between Musk and media groups since his acquisition of Twitter. for 44 billion dollars Last year.
“So will NPR start posting on Twitter again, or should we reassign @NPR to another company?” Musk wrote in an email Tuesday night to NPR reporter Bobby Allyn.
NPR stopped tweeting from its main account after Twitter abruptly labeled NPR’s main account a “state-affiliated media.” last month, a term that has also been used to identify outlets controlled or heavily influenced by authoritarian governments. Twitter then 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. Federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting represents less than 1% of NPR’s annual operating budget, the company said.
The last tweets on NPR’s main account were on April 12 – when the news agency shared a thread of other places where readers and listeners can find its journalism.
Twitter has temporarily slapped other news outlets – including the BBC and PBS – with “government-funded media” labels. PBS also stopped using its Twitter account in response.
In an article written by Allyn on Tuesday night, NPR’s tech reporter detailed the messages the billionaire Twitter owner sent regarding NPR’s account. Musk pointed to NPR’s choice to stop tweeting as possibly justifying the reassignment of the account.
“Our policy is to recycle handles that are permanently inactive,” Musk wrote in an email. “The same policy applies to all accounts. No special treatment for NPR.
According Twitter’s online policy, the social media platform determines account inactivity based on login, not tweet. Twitter says users must log in at least every 30 days to keep their accounts active, and that “accounts may be permanently deleted due to prolonged inactivity.”
However, Musk’s comments and actions don’t always add up, and it’s unclear whether he actually reattributes the handle to NPR, regardless of Twitter’s published policy on account activity.
When asked by NPR who would be willing to use NPR’s Twitter account, Musk replied, “National Pumpkin Radio,” with a fire emoji and a laughing emoji, NPR reported.
It’s unclear if NPR has logged into its account, which currently has a blue check without the old “government-funded media” label, since April. The Associated Press contacted NPR for comment early Wednesday.
Musk dissolved Twitter’s media and public relations department after the takeover.
On Wednesday, NPR’s Twitter account still appeared to belong to NPR. If Musk reassigns the account to another user, experts warn of misinformation and loss of credibility.
“Potentially losing access to a handful as a form of pressure is really just a continuation of the erosion of the credibility of information sharing on Twitter,” Zeve Sanderson told The Associated Press, executive director of the Center for Social Media and Politics at New York University.
“For journalism, it’s not just brand safety issues, but on top of that there’s a ton of concern about misinformation potentially being perceived as much more believable — because someone (could ) tweeting from the NPR handle when it really isn’t. them,” Sanderson added.
It’s the latest volley in what many experts describe as a frightening and uncertain landscape for journalism on Twitter since Musk acquired the company in October.
In addition to stripping news agency verifications and temporarily adding labels such as “government-funded media” to some accounts, Musk abruptly suspended the accounts of individual journalists. who wrote on Twitter late last year.
Responding to Musk’s emails on Tuesday, Liz Woolery, digital policy manager at literary organization PEN America, said it was “hard to imagine a more powerful example of Musk’s willingness to use Twitter to intimidate and retaliate arbitrarily against any person or organization that irritates it, with or without provocation”.
“This is a purely high-handed tactic, apparently designed to undermine one of the country’s leading and most trusted news organizations, especially important 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.