Twitter CEO Elon Musk reportedly sent an email to an NPR reporter with a warning that the social media platform may reassign the @NPR handle to “another company” unless it resumes tweeting—something the public broadcaster stopped doing last month after being labeled “state-affiliated media” by Twitter.
According to NPR, Musk sent an “unprompted” email to its reporter Bobby Allyn on Tuesday, asking: “So is NPR going to start posting on Twitter again, or should we reassign @NPR to another company?”
As of early Wednesday morning, Twitter’s terms of service deem an account to be inactive if it hasn’t been logged into for 30 days—sending out tweets is not mentioned as a requirement—and a “prolonged inactivity” can lead to an account’s removal.
Musk, however, refused to clarify if this rule had been changed and simply said Twitter’s policy is to “recycle handles that are definitively dormant,” and NPR will receive “no special treatment,” the report added.
Pointing out that NPR is not tagged as “government-funded” anymore—the issue that initially prompted the broadcaster to stop using Twitter—Musk asked in the message, “so what’s the beef?”
Forbes has reached out to NPR for comment.
Despite publicly attacking NPR for its stance several times last month, Musk has not tweeted about this reported email exchange as of early Wednesday.
Last month, NPR announced it will stop using Twitter after its handle was brandished with a “government-funded” label—similar to the one used for state-controlled foreign outlets including Xinhua, Global Times and RT. In a statement, NPR CEO John Lansing said that NPR stood for “freedom of speech and holding the powerful accountable,” adding that it was “unacceptable for Twitter to label us this way.” The company has mentioned that it receives less than 1% of its annual budget from the federal government. Public TV broadcaster PBS later joined NPR in leaving Twitter after also receiving the “government-funded” label. Later in April, Twitter moved to purge verified checkmarks from so-called “legacy verified” accounts that do not pay for the monthly Blue subscription service. As part of this blue-tick purge, Twitter also removed “government-funded” from all media accounts that previously had it, including NPR.
Elon Musk threatens to re-assign @NPR on Twitter to ‘another company’ (NPR)
Twitter Removes ‘Government-Funded Media’ Labels From News Outlets Amid Controversy—Including NPR, CBC, PBS (Forbes)
On Wednesday, 16 December 2020, reports surfaced that Tesla founder and technology entrepreneur Elon Musk had issued a warning to National Public Radio (NPR) to resume tweeting on its Twitter handle or risk it being reassigned.
The notice was reportedly posted in response to the broadcaster’s Twitter account having gone two weeks without any activity. NPR is an independent and non-profit media organization in the United States that is supported by reader donations, but the company’s Twitter account has been silent since December 2, 2020.
In response, Musk reportedly sent out a tweet on Wednesday saying: “If you don’t start tweeting again soon, your handle is getting reassigned”. It is the latest in a series of moves by the South African-born businessman to raise awareness of Twitter activity.
The warning – while made in a jesting way – has left many people wondering whether Musk actually has the power to reassign the handle. The answer is no, as Twitter’s rules dictate that a handle can only be changed if it enters “extended inactivity”.
In a statement to the media, Twitter noted: “We do not reassign Twitter handles unless there is a violation of our terms of service. We are unable to comment further.”
Musk’s warning, meanwhile, was not taken lightly by those familiar with NPR. Christine Heenan, the vice president of programming and audience development, tweeted: “Hey @elonmusk, thanks for the warning, but we’re still here (for now).”
It remains to be seen if NPR will respond to Musk’s warning and resume tweeting. Either way, the tech entrepreneur certainly seems determined to make some kind of statement when it comes to inactivity of social media accounts.