Elon Musk’s exquisite parody of impartiality?
Twitter's new no-tag policy scrupulously takes the same view of both Xinhua and the BBC
What was the point in Twitter removing the labels that described major media outlets’ funding models or affiliations? On April 21, tags that described China’s official Xinhua news agency or Russia’s RT were removed. So was the BBC’s controversial label “government-funded”.
Is Elon Musk’s Twitter trying to be so even-handed the exercise becomes is meaningless?
Is this supposed to be an exquisite parody of impartiality?
Until recently, Twitter’s guidelines said, “State-financed media organizations with editorial independence, like the BBC in the UK or NPR in the US for example, are not defined as state-affiliated media for the purposes of this policy.” That language has been removed.
Now, Twitter’s new no-tag policy scrupulously takes the same view of both Xinhua and the BBC. And even though Mr Musk has said he is a “free speech absolutist”, he has metaphorically raised his hands in surrender when faced with complaints about Twitter’s week-kneed response to different governments’ demands. He tweeted: “It is not possible for me to fix every aspect of Twitter worldwide overnight, while still running Tesla and SpaceX, among other things.”
In fact, Mr Musk seems overly solicitous about the rules set by some governments, not least Narendra Modi’s India. Remember when Mr Musk suddenly granted a roughly 90-minute interview to the BBC’s James Clayton? Remember how the world’s media (paywall) thoroughly picked it apart but seemed to barely notice an interesting insight on India?
As I’ve written before, at 38.40 on this Twitter Space link, the journo asked about Twitter’s functioning in India. The BBC, said Mr Clayton, had done a documentary on Mr Modi’s leadership and the 2002 Gujarat riots. “Some of the content was taken off Twitter. Was that at the behest of the Indian government?” To which, Mr Musk replied in tones of sweet reasonableness: “I’m not aware of that…”. He then went on to say that “the rules in India, what can appear on social media are quite strict and we can’t go beyond the laws of a country.”
As previously noted, Twitter is a commercial organisation and India is its third largest market after the US and Japan. With Twitter it’s reasonable to think it is all about the money. But what’s the profit in re-labelling and mis-labelling media outlets? And now in dropping all labels unless to cock a snook at the whole exercise?