Straight to the Source — How Twitter is Uniquely Positioned to Stop Fake News

In the 2016 election fake news generated more engagement than 19 major news outlets combined. Facebook and Google have come under fire for not doing enough to combat, detect, and prevent it.

However Twitter has not received the same amount of criticism for spreading fake news, despite Twitter’s traffic doubling on election night, while Facebook’s only increased by 30%. Why isn’t fake news as prevalent on Twitter as it is on Google or Facebook?

To answer this let’s first talk about the current state of news on social media. We don’t actually read news articles anymore — we read the headline, look at the thumbnail, and share the articles which confirm our existing views. The purpose of news has transformed from finding information to finding ammunition. We don’t check the source and we don’t consider the author’s bias.

We don’t fact check these articles because we’re used to depending on the mainstream media to create, distribute, and verify the news we consume. As creation and distribution of news has shifted to the masses, verification must now become our responsibility as well. News articles can no longer be trusted to quote or frame original sources objectively. The future of news is the original source, not the discussion around it. Twitter is uniquely positioned to curate this type of news:

Why read an article claiming a Trump surrogate said Japanese internment camps are precedent for a Muslim registry when you could just watch the the original clip? The primary source by itself is more accurate, objective, and unbiased than any of the articles written about it.

Twitter’s 140 character limit forces news to be condensed down so it can be consumed with the same speed and low cognitive load as fake news. In both these cases the text is the headline. The embedded video is the source. We can quickly analyze both and decide for ourselves if we believe the tweet is credible and worth sharing.

“The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than to produce it.”

The solution to fake news isn’t to fact check or refute it but to package actual news in such a way that it can achieve the same levels of engagement fake news enjoys today.