Twitter has removed its “government-funded media” labels from all accounts, including those of NPR and Xinhua News, after weeks of controversy. The social media platform originally labelled NPR as “state-affiliated,” despite the fact that the broadcaster receives only 1% of its funding from the government and operates with editorial independence. Twitter subsequently introduced a new “government-funded media” label for NPR and other outlets, including CBC, ABC Australia, SBS, RNZ, SR Ekot and SVT, and TV3.cat. However, Twitter then labeled CBC “69% government-funded media,” prompting the network to quit Twitter.
Twitter’s decision to introduce the labels drew criticism from some who claimed that they could give users a misleading impression of the accuracy of the news provided by the outlets in question. NPR CEO John Lansing said that he had “lost faith” in Twitter’s decision-making following the incident. Twitter also appears to have deleted its page explaining the labels.
Twitter’s initial “state-affiliated” label is reserved for publications where the government exerts control or influence over editorial decisions. The new “government-funded media” label was intended to be less misleading, but Twitter has now removed it entirely. The labels were part of Twitter’s efforts to combat disinformation and propaganda on its platform, but they appear to have caused more problems than they solved.
The controversy over the labels highlights the difficulties that social media platforms face in dealing with misinformation and propaganda. On the one hand, they have a responsibility to prevent the spread of false information, but on the other hand, they must avoid infringing on freedom of speech and unfairly targeting particular media outlets. It remains to be seen how Twitter and other platforms will navigate these challenges in the future.