Editor's note: As of April 20, 2023, Twitter had dropped all "state-affiliated" and "government-funded" labels on the accounts of government officials and media outlets, including the CBC.
On April 17, 2023, several social media posts surfaced claiming that Twitter, under Elon Musk's leadership, had labeled the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) as "69% Government-funded Media." The claim was true.
As of this writing on April 18, CBC's Twitter profile indeed included the label "69% Government-funded Media" above its bio reading, "The official CBC Twitter. Bringing you the best of Canada."
Initially, the figure was reportedly 70%, according to a screenshot shared by Musk. It was unclear when, exactly, the social media platform decreased the number by 1% in what some observers took to be an allusion to a sex joke. Sharing a screenshot depicting the "69%" figure, Musk tweeted in the early hours of April 18: "Canadian Broadcasting Corp said they're 'less than 70% government-funded', so we corrected the label."
The "government-funded media" label was attached after the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Pierre Poilievre, posted a message on social media asking for it. "I believe that Twitter should apply the Government-funded Media label to the CBC's various news-related accounts, including @CBC, @CBCNew and @CBCAlerts," wrote Poilievre, who is challenging Justin Trudeau as prime minister, in the letter. CBC's new "government-funded" designation also followed Twitter's move to label Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Media (NPR) "government-funded media," and those media outlets' subsequent decision to go silent on the platform. As far as we can determine, no other accounts labeled as government-funded media had a percentage attached to the label.
For the purposes of this fact check, we are not attempting to confirm, nor deny, whether the label was appropriate or accurate considering CBC's budget composition. Rather, we are focusing whether such a designation was actually made. That was true.
The CBC receives some funding through Canadian Parliament appropriations. (According to CBC's annual financial report, the media outlet received $1.24 billion (in Canadian dollars) in public funding through parliamentary appropriations in 2021-2022. That accounts to roughly 66% of that year's revenue.) However, the "69%" figure was not seemingly based on the factual makeup of CBC's budget. Rather, it appeared to be an instance of Musk thumbing his nose at the CBC (and possibly making a joke about a sex position, which would not have been out of character for Musk).
When we asked Twitter's communications team how, or why, it picked the number to supposedly depict the proportion of CBC's budget that is government funding, we got a poop emoji autoreply. (Musk instituted that autoreply to all questions from journalists on March 19.)
We asked CBC spokesperson Leon Mar about Twitter's recent labeling of the media outlet's Twitter profile, and the spokesperson said, "With regard to the latest from Elon Musk, this is not a serious response. Journalistic independence is not a game."
The CBC official said the real issue was that "Twitter's definition of 'Government-funded Media' means [that account is] open to editorial interference by government," or that it takes editorial direction from government officials. The spokesperson shared a statement from CBC Editor-in-Chief Brodie Fenlon's in which the top editor said, "[The] government has no – zero – involvement in our editorial content or journalism."
Considering the government money that helps fund CBC's operations, Michael Geist, who is a Canada Research Chair in internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, said "publicly-funded media" would be a more accurate designation on the media outlet's Twitter profile, rather than "government-funded media." The former group, according to Geist's interpretation of Twitter's policies, "includes media organizations with public financing and does not reference government involvement in editorial content."
On April 20, Twitter removed all "government-funded" and "state-affiliated" profile labels, including those on CBC accounts.