Using Twitter as a News Source
As social media becomes more prevalent, it's assuming some news functions that were previously the domain of traditional media including newspapers, radio, and TV. Twitter, in particular, is now known for its up-to-the-minute communication from reputable "breaking news" accounts, such as The Associated Press and Reuters Top News, as well as other news outlets and citizen reporters. While Twitter is part of a larger trend, its brief word limit (280 characters), trends element, and news-promoting features make it a unique choice for users who want to be in the know.
Growing News Source
With the rise of electronic media, people have become more and more likely to get their news online. Social media, in particular, has been growing steadily in its use as a source for news. A Pew Research Center study shows that 67 percent of Americans report that they get at least some of their news on social media, with two out of ten doing so often.1 This information from 2017 represents an increase from the previous year, when 62 percent reported getting news from social media.
In particular, the number of users who get news on Twitter, YouTube, and Snapchat has grown, according to the study. Specifically, 74 percent of Twitter users reported getting news on the site, up 15 percentage points from the previous year. About one-third of YouTube users get news on that site (an increase of 11 percentage points), and 29 percent of Snapchat users get news there (a 17 percent increase).
The study shows that users of other social media sites — including Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Tumblr — also get news from those sources, but the percentage of users doing so rose less during the study period than that of the other three. The site that reflects the greatest percentage of users getting news there is Facebook, with 45 percent of users doing so.
Added News Features
One reason Twitter shows up as a source where news consumption is growing is that it has recently changed the way content appears to make news stories more visible. In early 2018, according to Forbes, "Twitter began putting breaking news tweets at the top of user timelines in a bid to increase engagement…" Also, users have been seeing "more news links in general."2
In addition, Twitter displays live news broadcasts next to the timeline. The Trends feature also includes current news stories. The Moments feature curates tweets from news outlets and those from individuals around a specific news event, and users can tweet about their experiences related to political, human interest, and weather-related events, and more.
For example, during the Parkland, Fla. school shooting in 2018, students tweeted about what they were witnessing in the moment. While citizens may not always follow journalistic standards, their input can still contribute a valuable perspective about a particular story.
Follow Breaking News
There are several ways to follow news on Twitter:
- Scroll through your timeline, watching for news stories. From there, you can click through to read a story in full. You can participate in spreading a news story by retweeting it for your followers to see or tweeting a response.
- You can be more proactive in finding news by searching for a hashtag or by following an account that's tweeting regularly about a particular story.
- You can also find or search for trends, which are tailored to your location, interests, and who you follow. Trends are listed along with your timeline on the site or in the trends section of the Explore tab on the mobile app.
When you choose a trend, you'll see search results based on tweets that include the phrase or hashtag corresponding with the topic you selected. You can join the conversation by posting your own tweet that includes that phrase or hashtag.
FAST FACT: In 2009 a photo posted to Twitter broke the news of a US Airways flight that crashed on the Hudson River.
False News Travels Fast
The journal Science recently completed a study that showed false news (otherwise known as fake news) on Twitter reaches more people more quickly than true news. The study showed it took true stories six times as long to reach the same number of people. According to a Vox article analyzing the study, researchers concluded, "Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information."3
The study involved tracking stories from 2006 to 2017 known in retrospect to be either true or false. The researchers were able to track the stories backward to see where they originated. "The spread of the false stories was compared to that of true stories that the fact-checking verified," the Vox article states.
One reason cited by the researchers for this phenomenon is that false stories tend to be more sensational and illicit strong emotions, precisely the type of stories that get the most attention on social media generally.