The outlet, which ceased using Twitter last month after Musk temporarily affixed a label to the account noting that NPR receives funds from government entities, revealed that Musk sent a “series of emails” to business reporter Bobby Allyn on Tuesday: “So is NPR going to start posting on Twitter again, or should we reassign @NPR to another company?”
Allyn wrote that the idea shocked “even longtime observers of Musk’s spur-of-the-moment and erratic leadership style” and asserted that an effort to reassign companies’ handles on the site “poses a serious risk of impersonation and could imperil a company’s reputation.”
The reporter noted to Musk that the current Twitter terms of service define inactive accounts as those which do not log into the platform at least once every 30 days. “Our policy is to recycle handles that are definitively dormant,” Musk replied in another email. “Same policy applies to all accounts. No special treatment for NPR.”
NPR expressed outrage over the decision from Twitter to add a “state-affiliated media” tag to the company’s profile, a label that placed NPR in the company of foreign state-run media outlets such as TASS in Russia and Xinhua News in China. Although NPR was created with an act of Congress, Twitter previously listed NPR as an exception in the United States because of the “editorial independence” maintained by the company.
“NPR’s organizational accounts will no longer be active on Twitter because the platform is taking actions that undermine our credibility by falsely implying that we are not editorially independent,” a statement from NPR said last month. “We are not putting our journalism on platforms that have demonstrated an interest in undermining our credibility and the public’s understanding of our editorial independence.”
Musk removed the “state-affiliated media” label from the NPR account nearly one month ago after Allyn told him that the outlet receives only 1% of its operating budget from government funds. The account has 8.8 million followers and has remained inactive since early April.
The complaints from NPR come after the outlet reduced headcount by 10% and shuttered production on four seasonal podcasts as a result of a sponsorship shortfall. Dismissed employees accused NPR CEO John Lansing of racism in one virtual meeting about the layoffs.
Musk, who also serves as chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, said he bought Twitter at the end of last year for $44 billion in order to reserve a corner of the public square for open dialogue. The billionaire entrepreneur introduced a new revenue structure based on subscriptions rather than advertisements after he noted that a number of advertisers have ended their relationships with the company at the behest of leftist organizations, dealing a significant blow to the business.
“Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists,” Musk remarked on the platform. “Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.”