The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation paused its use of Twitter on Monday after the social media platform owned by Elon Musk stamped CBC’s account with a label the public broadcaster says is intended to undermine its credibility.
Twitter labelled CBC/Radio-Canada “government-funded media” — the same label that prompted National Public Radio in the U.S. to similarly quit Twitter last Wednesday.
“Twitter can be a powerful tool for our journalists to communicate with Canadians, but it undermines the accuracy and professionalism of the work they do to allow our independence to be falsely described in this way,” CBC spokesman Leon Mar said in a statement announcing the change Monday afternoon.
“Consequently, we will be pausing our activity on our corporate Twitter account and all CBC and Radio-Canada news-related accounts,” the statement said.
CBC has sent a letter to Twitter asking the company to re-examine the designation. Musk later tweeted about it and changed it to “69 percent Government-funded media.”
CBC does not meet those criteria, Mar argued, because it is publicly funded through a parliamentary appropriation that is voted upon by all members of Parliament, and its editorial independence is protected in law in the Broadcasting Act.
The CBC’s board of directors determines how the funding it receives is spent. In 2021-22, the CBC received more than $1.2 billion Canadian (US$900 million) in government funding.
Opposition Conservative Party of Canada Pierre Poilievre had urged Twitter to label CBC. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized Poilievre for what he called an “attack on a foundational Canadian institution.”
Twitter initially had labelled NPR’s main account as “state-affiliated media, ” a term also used to identify media outlets controlled or heavily influenced by authoritarian governments, such as Russia and China. Twitter later changed the label to “government-funded media,” but to NPR — which relies on the government for a tiny fraction of its funding — it’s still misleading.
Twitter earlier responded to a request for comment about why the label was applied and whether it would be removed or changed with an auto-generated email bearing a poop emoji.
Twitter, more than any of its rivals, has said its users come to it to keep track of current events. That made it an attractive place for news outlets to share their stories and reinforced Twitter’s moves to combat the spread of misinformation. But Musk has long expressed disdain for professional journalists and said he wants to elevate the views and expertise of the “average citizen.”
Musk has also abruptly suspended the accounts of individual journalists who wrote about Twitter late last year, claiming some were trying to reveal his location.
Twitter earlier in April removed the verification check mark on the main account of The New York Times, singling out the newspaper and disparaging its reporting after it said it would not pay Twitter for verification of its institutional accounts.
Twitter also used to tag journalists and other high-profile accounts with blue check marks to verify their identity and distinguish them from impostors. But Musk has derided the marks as an undeserved status symbol and plans to take them away from anyone not buying a premium subscription.