The new year brought new dimensions to the ongoing conversation on the power platforms have in hosting and shaping public discourse. When some people blamed social media companies for the disease of misinformation that spread more quickly even than Covid-19, others pointed to politicians as the source of the lies. But when Twitter and Facebook both took (belated but welcome) action to squelch those lies, even Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey questioned whether platforms have too much power. These platforms’ leaders are appearing before Congress today, in part to address that very question.To get more latest news on twitter, you can visit shine news official website.
Twitter has become especially central for news. There’s a lot that has been said about platformization, weakened media organizations, and a lack of regulation, and all of those factors play a role in Twitter’s prominence in the news ecosystem. But our latest study finds that journalists themselves have transferred some of their own power over the presentation of current events to Twitter by normalizing the ways tweets are presented in news stories. Journalists tend to present tweets as content — interchangeable building blocks of news — rather than like sources, whose ideas and messages must be subject to scrutiny and verification. This sends repeated messages to audiences that information on Twitter is legitimate and authoritative, granting Twitter power.
To understand how this happens, we have to understand where journalistic authority comes from in the first place.
There is no credential or certification required for journalists, and audiences are not obligated to grant them authority over current events. As a result, journalists must lay claim to authority over current events by consistently demonstrating it in their news reports. This may be done in many ways, but in short, it depends on journalists showing evidence of their process, particularly in explaining where information came from. Audiences grant journalists authority over news to the extent they can see journalists vetting sources, interrogating them, verifying information, and finally communicating it. In the process, journalists show who has power to speak and position themselves near those sources (both rhetorically and literally, in many cases).
Reliance on Twitter has short-circuited this process. Now what we see is a feedback loop: As Twitter becomes embedded in journalistic routine, journalists turn to it during news events. This leads journalists to use tweets in their stories, granting tweets markers of authority. It increases the likelihood that elites will use Twitter for future information releases, the likelihood that journalists will return to receive them, and the likelihood that audiences will become accustomed to seeing tweets as key aspects of news stories.We analyzed hundreds of news stories containing tweets published during 2018. We assembled this set of stories using Media Cloud, where we searched for news stories that contained tweets. We used a series of search strings (e.g. “tweeted,” “said in a tweet”) to find stories that simply paraphrased tweets, resulting in more than 23,000 articles. We randomly sampled 365 of these to read closely.
Rather than tagging specific characteristics of each tweet or story, we looked carefully for authority signals the piece gives to the audience. For instance, we asked, is the tweet left to speak for itself, or given context and qualification? Does the story refer to the tweet, or to its author as the source? Is this tweet the only way we hear from this person? And, perhaps most importantly, does this story exist only because someone tweeted? This last question detects cases where a tweet is the impetus for a news story, and especially where tweets are the primary source type in the story.