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Twitter owner Elon Musk threatens to reassign NPR account

The head executive at the social platform pointed to a non-existent policy regarding inactive accounts.

The head executive at the social platform pointed to a non-existent policy regarding inactive accounts.

Elon Musk, the owner of social media platform Twitter, appears at an event in 2018.
Elon Musk, the owner of social media platform Twitter, appears at an event in 2018. (Photo by Daniel Oberhaus via Flickr, Graphic by The Desk)

The top executive at Twitter has threatened to reassign the main account of NPR if the program distributor doesn’t resume posting to their profile.

The ultimatum was made in a series of e-mails sent to NPR reporter Bobby Allyn on Tuesday, and comes several weeks after NPR said it would stop posting updates on Twitter because its public account was wrongly labeled as “state-affiliated” and “government-funded.” The labels were dropped last month.

Musk, who acquired Twitter last year in a private deal valued at $44 billion, has floated the idea in the past of reassigning Twitter usernames when accounts are dormant for a period of time. Prior to Musk’s acquisition, Twitter rarely reissued social media handles, but it did so for brands that held valid trademarks to a word or phrase (at the moment, NPR is the only brand with a valid trademark to the consecutive letters “N-P-R,” according to a review of filings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office).

“Our policy is to recycle handles that are definitively dormant,” Musk said. “Same policy applies to all accounts. No special treatment for NPR.”

Twitter has no public policy requiring users to post to their accounts with any regularity. The company does have a long-standing policy where it considers an account “inactive” if it is not logged into at least once every 30 days, but the policy doesn’t extend to any other activity, including posts. It was not clear if NPR had logged into their account within the past month.

The threat from the top executive at Twitter was first made public in a news story written by Allyn and published by NPR late Tuesday evening. An unnamed executive at NPR apparently told Allyn that Musk’s threat should serve as a cautionary tale for other businesses on Twitter, in that they could be subject to Musk’s ever-changing rules and policies. In the past, NPR’s CEO John Lansing has told the outlet that he no longer had any confidence in Twitter’s ability to make reasonable business decisions.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).