It’s truly incredible what a childish person Elon Musk can be. As you’ll recall, he thought it was the funniest thing in the world to misleadingly label NPR as “state affiliated media,” a label that had been previously reserved for media organizations that were voices of the state, rather than independent. He did it because one of his nonsense peddler followers made some joke about NPR being state-affiliated media, and in typical Elon fashion, rather than looking into any of this or understanding the reasons why the “state-affiliated media” labels existed, thought it would put NPR in its place to put the label on them as well.
After people finally talked to him about it, he changed the label to “government funded” and when people still pointed out how misleading and problematic all this was, he quickly dropped the labels for NPR… but also from the organizations for which the “state-affiliated media label” had served a purpose: government mouthpieces like RT, Xinhua News, and others.
So, in typical fashion, Elon made a rash non-sensical decision that undermined a useful tool, then haphazardly tried to fix things, made a mess of it, and closed it out by completely ruining a perfectly reasonable and helpful program.
Notably, a new study from DFR Lab found that at the end of March, just before all this went down, Elon’s Twitter had clearly taken some sort of behind the scenes policy change to make the Twitter accounts of government propaganda mills from Russia, China, and Iran get more attention, suggesting that the attack on NPR, the BBC, and the CBC were not so random, but rather cover for helping authoritarian propaganda mills.
Some Russian, Chinese, and Iranian state media accounts which Twitter had previously labeled as “government-affiliated” were hemorrhaging followers in the months prior to this policy update, then experienced rapid gains after Twitter instituted the change. While multiple factors could contribute to these accounts’ growth trajectory, but the sudden, simultaneous increase in followers per day after a period of decline indicates platform-wide algorithmic change around March 29.
The results are pretty stark, and quite clear. Here, for example is the chart showing that Russia’s RT main Twitter account had been losing followers, and then suddenly shot upwards:
The Iranian PressTV also has a clear increase:
Kinda eye opening.
Of course, in the midst of this nonsense, NPR (among others) made the easy call to leave Twitter. The reasoning given by NPR CEO was not just the labeling, but that “I have lost my faith in the decision-making at Twitter… I would need some time to understand whether Twitter can be trusted again.”
Musk does not seem to comprehend the amount of trust he’s completely squandered. So, he seemed to assume that after he wiped away the “state-affiliated” and “government funded” labels, that NPR would just return to Twitter.
When that didn’t happen, he just emailed NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn — who had originally educated him on why calling NPR “state-affiliated” was wrong — to ask why NPR hadn’t returned and threatening to give the @NPR handle to someone else:
In an unprompted Tuesday email, Musk wrote: “So is NPR going to start posting on Twitter again, or should we reassign @NPR to another company?”
Considering that NPR’s key point was that Musk’s random whims make the entire company untrustworthy, this… seems unlikely to rebuild the kind of trust that John Lansing was seeking.
Allyn pointed out to Musk that Twitter’s existing rules say they don’t consider an account dormant so long as people keep logging into it (i.e., it’s not dormant only if you’re not tweeting) and Musk made up some new policies, and did his typical misunderstanding everything schtick:
“Our policy is to recycle handles that are definitively dormant,” Musk wrote in another email. “Same policy applies to all accounts. No special treatment for NPR.”
Except that NPR wasn’t asking for “special treatment.” Indeed, this whole stupid affair is only happening because Elon Musk singled NPR out for “special treatment” in an attempt to curry favor with his dumbest fans, and now is mad that he’s facing the consequences of his own actions.
Also, again, Twitter’s policy is clearly stated that the removal of an account for being dormant means not just no tweeting, but not logging in to the site. NPR’s account is not dormant by Twitter’s own terms. So, again, if Musk is threatening to take away NPR’s account for not breaking the rules, he’s again singling them out for “special treatment,” this time because his ego is hurt that NPR left and has no desire to come back.
Of course, it’s hard to see how this builds any trust at all. As we noted earlier today, we’re also leaving Twitter. Elon Musk has taken a site that used to provide value for the media and thrown it all away. Things won’t get better until he actually takes responsibility for how often he’s fucked stuff up, and admits that his own actions are the root cause. That seems unlikely, and thus Twitter will continue to crumble.
Elon Whines That He’ll Give Away NPR’s Twitter Account If They Won’t Start Using Twitter Again
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