Twitter lifts limits on Russian gov’t accounts as news outlets fight ‘gov’t-funded’ labels

Victor Barreiro Jr.

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Twitter lifts limits on Russian gov’t accounts as news outlets fight ‘gov’t-funded’ labels

TWITTER AND MUSK. Twitter logo and a photo of Elon Musk are displayed through magnifier in this illustration taken October 27, 2022

Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Twitter's search results, timeline, and recommendation tools begin showing a number of Russian government accounts, including Vladimir Putin's presidential account, among others

MANILA, Philippines – Twitter has removed restrictions against Russian government accounts, including Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government account, a review of the service by The Telegraph found.

The Telegraph reported over the weekend that Twitter’s search results, timeline, and recommendation tools have begun showing a number of Russian government accounts.

These include Vladimir Putin’s presidential account, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and its embassy in the United Kingdom.

The news follows reports Twitter was no longer limiting the reach of Russian state organizations following the war in Ukraine.

It also comes after prominent news networks on Twitter, such as NPR, PBS, Voice of America (VOA), and the BBC, were listed as “government-funded” media.

Rescinding Russian deamplification

Twitter last April said it wouldn’t “amplify or recommend government accounts belonging to states that limit access to free information and are engaged in armed interstate conflict,” referring to Russian government accounts at the time.

A review by The Telegraph, however, pointed to Russian government accounts being featured on search results, in suggestions of accounts to follow, and on the “For You” feed for newly-made accounts which did not follow anyone at the time of creation.

Pushing back against ‘government-funded’ labels

Meanwhile, news outlets labeled as “government-funded” media were pushing back on the labeling, especially given the lack of context.

In an earlier instance, NPR was incorrectly labeled as “state-affiliated” media before being called government-funded. NPR has stated it is an independent, non-profit media organization getting “the bulk of its direct financial support from two sources: sponsorships and fees paid by hundreds of member stations.” It receives less than 1% of its annual operating budget on grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and federal agencies and departments.

The BBC has objected to the label in a statement, and also noted some of its larger accounts were not labeled in the same manner. “The BBC is, and always has been, independent. We are funded by the British public through the license fee,” the BBC said.

In a report on The Hill, a PBS spokesperson said its editorial independence “is central to our work, and will never change.” The spokesperson added, “Twitter’s simplistic label leaves the inaccurate impression that PBS is wholly funded by the federal government. PBS is primarily funded by the public and philanthropic organizations, with only a small portion of our funding coming from entities affiliated with government.”

VOA’s spokesperson called the label “potentially misleading,” adding, “The label ‘government funded’ is potentially misleading and could be construed as also ‘government-controlled’ – which VOA is most certainly not.” –

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Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.