Twitter and Facebook are evolving their approach to news, and have started to become the opposite of their former selves. Where Facebook is trying to shed its association with news, Twitter is building it into its platform — but it’ll need to avoid Facebook’s problems with fake news.
Facebook, whether it likes it or not, has become a source of news for many. A 2017 Pew study revealed that Facebook was far and away the site people are most likely to turn to when they want news, at least among its social media peers.
Meanwhile, Twitter has emerged as Facebook’s main competitor. In recent months, it’s has been beefing up its approach to breaking news. First, it collaborated with local news sources to improve authenticity of breaking news. The first instance of this was during the Parkland school shooting in February.
More recently, it’s working on a feature to pin breaking news to the top of its timeline, and curate a series of tweets both from news sources and Twitter users. Twitter first tested the feature during the death of Stephen Hawking, and confirmed it was making this a regular thing.
Facebook has dithered over what to do with news on its site. In January, it announced that it would no longer prioritize news posts over those of friends. Facebook has continuously insisted that it’s not a news site, and has done everything it can to disassociate itself from the label of news provider. It even tested a second News Feed specifically for Pages and publishers which it has since put on the backburner.
So what could Twitter learn from the difficulties that have pushed Facebook away from news?
Facebook’s main difficulty at the moment is the spread of fake news, a difficulty Twitter isn’t immune to. Twitter’s primary problem seems to be bot accounts, of which there are millions. Twitter has already assured its investors it’s committed to purging bot accounts, which would go part of the way towards keeping the news channels clear.
If Twitter is going to place more stock in news, it can benefit from keeping that news hand-selected and curated. According to Buzzfeed, Twitter will switch to algorithmic curation in the future. While that’ll no doubt save the employees some time, having human eyes oversee breaking news will help keep fake reports down.
If any social media site is going to take Facebook’s crown as the place people go to for news, it’ll have to avoid the mistakes that got Facebook such a questionable reputation.