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There was a time when Twitter was a place where people shared their quick thoughts on the moment, a text message to the masses. It had evolved to be where news announcements could be made—and the August 28, 2020 post announcing the death of actor Chadwick Boseman remains the most liked tweet of all time.
However, Twitter—now officially rebranded X—was never really intended to be a source of news and information. Yet, in recent years it has evolved into that role.
While it could probably reasonably serve for providing sports scores, the day’s headlines, and quick updates on current events, it has instead become a primary source of information about politics and more recent global conflicts. In both cases, the “news reports” can hardly be described as unbiased.
X increasingly has enabled misinformation to spread as quickly as verified news reports.
“There is a lot of research that shows that social media in general and X in particular are not great for replacing journalism. Research on misinformation shows that the speed at which social media uses prevents fact checking, and later corrections never achieve the reach of the original misinformation,” Dr. Cliff Lampe, professor of information and associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Information at the University of Michigan, warned.
“An example of this is the Boston Marathon Bombing, where people were sharing false information widely and authorities were asking people to stop spreading misinformation,” Lampe added.
Reports From The Frontlines
Social media has allowed near real-time reports from the frontlines in the ongoing wars in Ukraine and Gaza, and in the former case that has certainly served as a counter-narrative to the Kremlin’s official reports. In that way, social media did serve as a tool to combat government propaganda.
Yet, in both conflicts there still been no shortage of misinformation, including photos and videos presented out of context. The “news” we receive isn’t fact-checked or has received any outside confirmation from sources, but too many people are quick to accept it as the truth.
The same is certainly true of the political news in America, where almost daily “facts” showing the 2020 election was stolen are shared on the platform. It is often just opinions and theories disguised as news.
“Social media—where some 20 percent of U.S. residents get their news, according to Pew—is never a good place to get facts, which are always important but particularly so during wartime. Otherwise, we are making or supporting policy based on how a post made us feel. We are making decisions based on feelings. Feelings are important, too, but facts are more so,” Susan Campell, distinguished lecturer in the Communication, Film and Media Studies Department at the University of New Haven, explained.
Fifth Estate or Fifth Column?
Dr. Julianna Kirschner of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California suggested that we should consider social media to be the “fifth estate,” where traditional journalism has always been the fourth estate.
“On X and other social media platforms, we are seeing an infringement of the fourth estate by the fifth,” she suggested. “The ethical standards of traditional journalism cannot be matched on X, because some due diligence is needed in order to verify the truthfulness of a claim. The motivation of these platforms is immediacy, so content is often shared without being verified.”
False reports, even from well-intentioned users, only serve to make the problem of misinformation worse. It could be argued that this fifth estate is essentially a fifth column, as in a group that is serving to undermine the nation from within.
“Inflammatory opinions are also frequently grouped together with factual posts, which can make the user’s task of determining fact from fiction a challenge,” Kirschner added. “Journalists are well-trained professionals, and they work to find reliable sources and verify claims they encounter in the reporting process. On X, this rarely occurs.”
In recent months, Elon Musk—who acquired the platform a little more than a year ago—has repeatedly suggested that X could, and should, replace traditional news due to its ability to offer reports in real-time. Yet, he never clearly explained how the reports can be trusted to be true and accurate.
But that may be a secondary consideration for the tech entrepreneur as he seeks to make the company profitable.
“Content on X is organized to further entrench a user into their preexisting assumptions. The platform is designed to give what it thinks the user wants to see and to encourage users to linger,” Kirschner continued. “Often, this means showing users hateful rhetoric and misleading commentary, because those types of posts generally have more engagement.”
We’ve already seen that anything that incites will have a higher likelihood of being reshuffled toward the top of the feed.
“Doomscrolling can be the result,” Kirschner warned. “Despite the negative effect of doomscrolling on the user, social media platforms like X have no incentive to solve the problem. The status quo already works in their favor.”
All The News That’s Fit To Tweet?
Social media, including X, may still have a place in delivering news and information—but it shouldn’t be the primary source of it.
“X and some other platforms are good at sharing events, but bad for generating news. People tend to forget that journalism is a set of professional practices to determine information quality, and that’s what social media is not great at,” said Lampe.
“Reports on war and politics deserve more,” Kirschner noted. “Old media should not die, because people already have trouble discerning truth from fiction. It is the journalist’s job to draw this conclusion through thorough research and investigation. We would be lost as a society without the information lifeline that journalists give us.”
We update regularly World Latest Breaking News here. We update 2023-11-19 19:27:26 this news story from official website – https://www.forbes.com/sites/petersuciu/2023/11/19/x-marks-the-spot-for-political-and-war-news-but-can-we-trust-it/.”
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