NPR Protests Twitter for Labeling Its Account ‘State-Affiliated Media’: ‘It Is Unacceptable’

The public radio network said the label used to ID propaganda outlets from places like Russia and China appeared with no warning

NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

NPR panned Twitter after the social media site added a “state-affiliated media” tag to the public radio network’s main account, decrying the label as one used “to designate official state mouthpieces and propaganda outlets in countries such as Russia and China.””

“NPR operates independently of the U.S. government,” the nonprofit media company said in a story posting on its website. “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.”

NPR officials asked Twitter to remove the label, which they said was applied with no warning.

President and CEO John Lansing told ABC News it is “unacceptable for Twitter to label us this way,” noting the label appears on all of its tweets.

“NPR stands for freedom of speech and holding the powerful accountable,” Lansing said. “A vigorous, vibrant free press is essential to the health of our democracy.”

It was not clear what prompted the move on Twitter’s part.

ABC reported that Twitter’s owner, Elon Musk, quoted a definition of state-affiliated media in the platform’-s guidelines as “outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution.”

“Seems accurate,” Musk tweeted in a reply to NPR.

NPR apparently deleted that exchange. Thursday morning, its latest post was from Tuesday night, but the label appeared on all of its old stories as well. Some hosts and reporters were still tweeting.

“What happens when a major social media organization becomes a vehicle of retribution by its owner?” asked longtime host Lulu Garcia Navarro in a post that showed the new label on NPR’s profile. “The underpinning of how they have been regulated is the argument that they are agnostic ‘platforms’. This is a blatant partisan attack on fact-based journalism.”

Musk eliminated Twitter’s communications staff after he took over the site in October. An emailed request for comment Thursday was met with an auto-replied “poop” emoji, the standard reply for any press requests from the company for the past few weeks.

The move comes amid Twitter’s moves to change its labeling system for verified accounts with an eye toward generating more revenue from users. The blue checkmarks formerly doled out to celebrities, journalists and businesses for free are now $7 per month, and it has added gold checks for verified organizations, including media and gray checks for government accounts.

Musk warned weeks ago that after April 1, “legacy” blue checks that predated his ownership would be removed, though the only highly visible account that happened to so far was the New York Times, according to, The Wall Street Journal.

The company has said it wants to provide people with more context about certain profiles, the Journal noted. President Biden’s profile, for example, is now tagged with “United States government official.”

“There is no doubt of the independence of NPR journalists,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday. “If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of their questions, you know this.”