Twitter's blue bird runs around like a headless chicken

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Twitter to quickly end its erratic management following the developments of 20 April, when it removed its blue checkmarks from formerly verified accounts and, at the same time, suddenly removed the labels it had attached to public media, without providing the least explanation for this abrupt change.

After originally announcing that the blue ticks, which were introduced before Elon Musk’s takeover, would disappear on 1 April, they finally went 20 days later. The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, France Télévisions and many other media outlets, along with non-profit organisations such as RSF, discovered on 21 April that the verification checkmarks had disappeared from their accounts overnight.

But there was no prior warning about the simultaneous disappearance of the labels attached to public media, an innovation that had been a source of controversy during the previous two weeks as they had been imposed in a baseless and even arbitrary manner. 

The Canadian public broadcaster CBC had been labelled “government-funded media,” implying that its editorial policies were not fully independent. America’s National Public Radio, also known as NPR, had been labelled “US state-affiliated media” before being also re-classified as government-funded media. This haphazard labelling was clear evidence of erratic management, and their sudden removal does not dispel this impression.

Twitter has manifestly lost its way. New rules are hastily enacted, applied blindly and then disappear just as suddenly as they were issued. We ask that clear rules be communicated and published. The media is not Twitter’s toy, and should not be subjected to the uncertainties of such fickle management, which are harmful to journalism's public interest mission.

Vincent Berthier

Head of RSF’s Tech Desk

RSF can only welcome the end of the policy of branding public media, which implied that only the content on public media should be handled with care, because privately-owned media were not labelled in the same way. 

But the removal of these warnings has unfortunately also applied to the Chinese state media, Reuters says, and to the Russian influencer media RT (the former Russia Today), whose boss even thanked Elon Musk. So, Twitter has ended its false equivalence between public media and state media, but has replaced it with a failure to distinguish between any kind of media, including those that openly disseminate disinformation and propaganda.

Published on
Updated on 21.04.2023