In a report on Wednesday, National Public Radio reporter Bobby Allyn revealed that Twitter CEO Elon Musk threatened to reassign the @NPR Twitter handle to “another company.”
In April, NPR left Twitter after its account got labeled as a “state-controlled” media outlet. Similar labels were assigned to PBS and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC). All three outlets stopped using Twitter in protest. The labels have since been removed, but the outlets have not resumed posting on Twitter.
According to Allyn, Musk sent an unprompted email on Tuesday asking if NPR planned to resume posting on the platform “or should we reassign @NPR to another company?”
Allyn notes that under the platform’s terms of service, account inactivity is determined by log-in and not posts. It is considered “prolonged inactivity” when a user does not log into a Twitter account for more than 30 days. In this case, Twitter can permanently remove the account.
When Allyn asked Musk if he planned to change the terms of service’s definition of prolonged inactivity, he didn’t answer. He also refused to say why he sent the initial email to Allyn asking about NPR’s lack of posts on the platform.
In a follow-up email, Musk told Allyn that Twitter’s policy is to “recycle handles” when they become “definitively dormant,” adding that there would be “no special treatment for NPR.”
According to Allyn, Musk’s suggestion that Twitter might reassign the @NPR handle was blasted by “social media experts,” who argue that reassigning an established handle to another party would pose a “serious risk of impersonation,” which would “imperil” the reputation of the company.
Columbia Journalism School professor Emily Bell called Musk’s threat “extraordinary,” telling Allyn that if Musk follows through and reassigns NPR’s Twitter handle, there could be a “rapid retreat” from Twitter by other companies, brands, and media outlets.