Canada’s public broadcaster CBC said it was effectively exiting Twitter, becoming the latest news organization to challenge a new label assigned on the website owned by billionaire Elon Musk.
In a statement Monday, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and its French-language version, Radio Canada, said Twitter had added a “government-sponsored media” label to its account.
As a result, the broadcaster explained that it was “pausing” its activity on the platform. It condemned the label as “untrue and deceptive”.
“Twitter can be a powerful tool for our journalists to engage with Canadians, but it undermines the accuracy and professionalism of the work they do, allowing our independence to be mischaracterized that way,” the CBC said.
As a “state-owned enterprise,” the CBC does receive funding through parliamentary votes. But a spokesman for the news organization noted that its editorial independence is protected by Canada’s broadcasting laws.
Twitter defines “government-funded media” as “media that is partially or fully funded by the government and that may be involved to varying degrees in editing the content.”
Our journalism is impartial and independent. Suggestions otherwise are incorrect.That’s why we’re suspending our activities @Twitter. | Notre journalism est impartial et indépendant. Pretendre le contraire est faux. C’est pourquoi nous suspendons sur activity @Twitter.
— CBC/Canadian Radio (@CBCRadioCanada) April 17, 2023
The CBC’s response follows a similar protest from Radio New Zealand (RNZ), also a public broadcaster, which threatened to leave the site on Monday.
“Not only is our editorial independence protected by law, but we vigorously protect it,” its head of content Megan Whelan said in a statement on Twitter.
In the US, National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) also announced last week that they were quitting Twitter because they believed the labels misrepresented their editorial independence and funding models.
Several national public broadcasters have followed suit in recent days.
NPR is moving away from Twitter, and that includes the NPR Politics feed. Please read this thread to find other ways to find our work, including:
NPR Politics Instagram: https://t.co/UJ2HzXYsR0
NPR Political Newsletter: https://t.co/mrWXwUrXrn https://t.co/5kmu5kGogV
— NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) April 12, 2023
In Canada, Twitter’s decision to label the CBC “government-funded” has the support of some conservative politicians.
Canada’s Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre praised the move on his Twitter account, calling the CBC “propaganda” and “not news” for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The conservative leader has previously said he personally wrote to Musk calling for the CBC to get the “government-funded” label. Poilievre also called for defunding the news organization.
In response, Trudeau on Monday accused Poilievre of “attacking this Canadian institution, the cultural and local content that is so important to many Canadians.”
In October last year, Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion. He describes himself as a “free speech absolutist” and has long been angry at Twitter’s content moderation policies, which he has since eased.
But since Musk took over, critics have accused the billionaire of ignoring press freedom on the platform.
Musk briefly suspended the accounts of certain journalists after they shared public information about his jet’s location. Last month, Musk announced that any media inquiries to Twitter would receive an automated response in the form of a poop emoji.
As of Monday, Twitter listed three categories to describe a news organization’s affiliation: “state-affiliated,” “government-funded,” and “publicly funded.”
NPR was originally listed as “state-affiliated,” which Twitter defined as “a channel through which the state controls editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressure, and/or control over production and distribution.”
Twitter later changed the NPR label to “government-funded” after criticism that its original label put the outlet in the same category as Russian and Chinese propaganda.
Meanwhile, the BBC was initially listed as “government funded” but has since been labeled “publicly funded,” which Twitter defines as “through license fees, individual donations, public financing and commercial funding.” financing”.
In an interview with the BBC last week, Musk said of the labeling decision: “I think it’s done in a way that’s as truthful and accurate as possible”.
Courtney Radsch, a fellow at the UCLA Institute for Technology, Law and Policy, writing for the Brookings Institution research team, argues that the label is misleading because it ignores other forms of government support that a range of media outlets around the world receive.
“The terms state-controlled and government-funded raise questions about the utility of using such blunt terms and exclude information about how other news outlets are funded and function,” she wrote.
“The selective application of labels to some news outlets and not others also raises concerns about perception and consistency”.