Facebook and Twitter Have Changed News. Now What?

At a Glance

  • Could social media news face regulation?
  • Consumers more challenged now, says Fox News' Hume

As “fake news” became a buzzword — in fact, one dictionary’s word of the year — it also brought up several issues about the trust people place in sources of news, primarily news distributed on social media networks.

“I think Facebook, Twitter and others are very scared right now,” says Craig Silverman, media editor for Buzzfeed. “It’s why we’ve seen Facebook unveil new programs to rein this in and change public opinion.”

Silverman was part of a panel at the Global Financial Leadership Conference looking at the role of news in a world where new news organizations are being created every day, and there are more sources for consumers to consider than ever before.

Noting a poll that said 55 percent of Americans get their news from Facebook, moderator Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s Morning Joe asked whether it is time to regulate Facebook.

“I think the threat of regulation is better than regulation itself,” said Silverman, adding that regulation would be very difficult to write and could have implications on free speech.

“This is an era that challenges the consumer of news more than any other,” added Fox News’ Brit Hume. “This environment with a vast array of sources available, is a challenge to the reader or viewer at home.”


Scarborough cited a recent study that found 48 percent of adults have confidence in the press, up 9 percent since the 2016 U.S. election, but down from 72 percent in 1976, says Scarborough.

“We grew up watching Walter Cronkite. If Walter said ‘That’s the way it was’ that’s the way it was,” said Scarborough.

Today’s environment invites confusion about what even counts as news, according to Silverman.

“With this, depending on who you are, you consider a link from one source to be news and another to not be news,” he said. “You consider something from a friend maybe to be news and maybe not. So I think a lot of people are confused even though they’re getting a ton of information on Facebook.”

Facebook, for their part, has embarked on several projects over the last year to limit fake news on their feed, and gain more credibility, including establishing partnerships with news organizations and flagging disputed content.

Jill Abramson of The Guardian and former Editor-in-Chief of the New York Times says the nature of Facebook and Twitter allows for news that confirms beliefs.

“It’s a narrowing of the ideological funnel of the news you’re seeing,” she said, but overall she believes traditional news organizations will survive.

“Our democracy is extremely durable and reslilient. A couple years ago I worried that the internet was going to take out some media, like the Washington Post. But now they’ve come back stronger.”

 

Evan Peterson is director of corporate marketing at CME Group and managing editor of OpenMarkets.

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