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CBC quits Twitter over errant profile label

Canada's public broadcaster says the "government-funded" label, which now includes the number "69," is erroneous.

Canada's public broadcaster says the "government-funded" label, which now includes the number "69," is erroneous.

A electronic newsgathering van used by Canadian public broadcaster CBC and Radio Canada. (Photo by P. Oberstein via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)
A electronic newsgathering van used by Canadian public broadcaster CBC and Radio Canada. (Photo by P. Oberstein via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation says it is will stop using Twitter on a temporary basis after the platform affixed a “government-funded media” label to some of its social media profiles.

The decision mirrors similar action taken by public broadcasters NPR and PBS in the United States over similar labels that were wrongly applied to their main Twitter accounts over the last few weeks.

In a statement, an official with the CBC — which also operates Radio Canada — said Twitter’s decision to falsely label its accounts with a “government-funded” tag “undermines the accuracy and professionalism” of its journalists, who use the service to connect with Canadians on a daily basis.

“Consequently, we will be pausing our activity on our corporate Twitter account and all CBC and Radio-Canada news-related accounts,” the official said.

The temporary ban does not extend to Canadian journalists who work for the CBC or Radio Canada, who are free to continue using Twitter as they see fit.

Earlier in the week, the CBC sent a letter to Twitter and its owner, tech mogul Elon Musk, arguing the label misconstrues how the CBC is funded and operated. While the CBC receives less than 70 percent of its funding from the public, the editorial output of CBC and Radio Canada isn’t controlled by any government official or agency.

Musk responded to the letter by amending the label on the CBC’s main account to read “69% government-funded.” The number “69” is widely used in immature pop culture to reference a type of oral sex.

The labels on some news accounts continues a pattern of juvenile behavior by Musk toward reporters and news outlets since he acquired Twitter last October for $44 billion. Days after the deal was done, Musk hired two actors to portray laid off Twitter workers with the last names “Ligma” and “Johnson” as part of a prank played on reporters who were outside Twitter’s San Francisco offices to cover actual layoffs happening at the company. (Early news reports by CNBC and others erroneously claimed Ligma and Johnson were actual former employees before the ruse was realized.)

In mid-March, Musk reactivated an e-mail account used by reporters to send inquiries to Twitter, which stopped responding after he fired most of the company’s public relations team. The e-mail account now automatically replies to all messages with a small picture of poop.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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