Musk Makes 'Extraordinary Threat' to NPR

CEO warns he'll give media organization's Twitter handle to someone else if it doesn't start tweeting
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2023 9:01 AM CDT
Musk to NPR: Tweet, or I'll Give Your Twitter Account Away
Twitter CEO Elon Musk is seen carrying his child after speaking at the POSSIBLE marketing conference on April 18 in Miami Beach, Florida.   (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

NPR has stayed firm in not tweeting since Elon Musk's Twitter first labeled its account "state-affiliated media" last month, then "government-funded media." Those labels are now gone, but NPR has continued to stay silent online. Now, the news organization is reporting that Musk is threatening to hand over the NPR account, along with its nearly 9 million followers, to someone else entirely. NPR says it got wind of the Twitter CEO's apparent plans when he sent them an unsolicited email on Tuesday that read, "So is NPR going to start posting on Twitter again, or should we reassign @NPR to another company?"

NPR and Reuters note that, per Twitter's terms of service, users of the social media platform should "be sure to log in at least every 30 days" to avoid having their account flagged. Otherwise, "accounts may be permanently removed due to prolonged inactivity." The ToS doesn't mention accounts being removed simply for not tweeting, and Musk didn't hint to NPR if he planned on changing the definition of "inactivity." "Our policy is to recycle handles that are definitively dormant," Musk wrote in a second email. "Same policy applies to all accounts. No special treatment for NPR."

NPR notes it's not clear if Musk will actually wrest its handle away, or which third party he'd hand the account to—he joked with NPR that "National Pumpkin Radio" might get the honors. But social media experts say such a move would up the risk of impersonation and possibly endanger the company's reputation. "It's really an extraordinary threat to make," Columbia Journalism School's Emily Bell tells the outlet. "If this is a sign of things to come on Twitter, we might soon see even more of a rapid retreat by media organizations and other brands that don't think it's worth the risk." PBS and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation have already also stopped tweeting after being similarly labeled.

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Meanwhile, the AP reports on one about-face that Twitter is making: It's restoring free access to its application programming interface, or API, for verified government and "publicly owned" services. Twitter on Tuesday noted that those specified entities "who tweet weather alerts, transport updates and emergency notifications may use the API, for these critical purposes, for free." The backtracking came after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York City's transit agency, pulled out of using Twitter for service advisories due to the new API costs, which it said could run the agency $50,000 a month. (More Elon Musk stories.)

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