Elon Musk – in his capacity as owner of Twitter – recently labelled NPR, a US-based radio broadcaster, “state-affiliated” due to the government subsidies it receives (about 1% of its revenue). NPR retaliated by quitting Twitter.

Shortly afterwards, Musk had a public stoush with the UK’s BBC on account of the country’s TV tax, a compulsory annual fee paid by every TV owner to fund the public broadcaster, regardless of whether or not they watch it. In this case Musk eventually backed down and agreed to change the label to “publicly funded”.

But Musk is on a bit of a slippery slope here: these days, what isn’t government funded? Musk’s other companies, Tesla and SpaceX, are heavily-subsidised by the US government. In Australia, the taxpayer supports the ABC to the tune of $1 billion (2021) each year, an amount which dwarfs the amount the US government provides the NPR.

And that’s just direct subsidies. What about Australia’s media ‘bargaining code’, a law that effectively provides large indirect support to the country’s legacy media companies, such as News Corp and Seven West Media, by protecting them from competition?

If Musk wanted to be consistent then there would be very few companies on Twitter that he shouldn’t slap with some kind of “state-affiliated” or “publicly funded” label.

I’m no fan of Twitter and don’t use it as anything more than a news feed. I’d much prefer a world in which people used the decentralised Fediverse as the ‘internet’s town hall’, rather than Twitter. But until that happens, Twitter is private company and Musk can do what he wants.

Don’t like it? Leave it!