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Journalists have much to lose if Twitter dies

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Rise in searches for 'how to delete Twitter' in the Musk era

Image: — © AFP Jung Yeon-je

Paul RICARD

Few will lose as much as journalists if Twitter dies, having grown reliant on its endless sources and instant updates despite the dangers and distortions that come with it.

There has been fevered talk of the platform’s imminent demise since billionaire Elon Musk took over last month and began firing vast numbers of staff.

But most journalists “can’t leave,” said Nic Newman, of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. “It’s actually a really important part of their work.”

Newman was working at the BBC when Twitter started making waves in 2008 and 2009.

“It was a new Rolodex, a new way of contacting people — fantastic for case studies and… experts,” he said.

But Twitter also became a competitor, replacing newsrooms as the source of breaking news for the public when terrorist attacks, natural disasters or any fast-moving story struck.

“Journalists realised they wouldn’t always be the ones breaking the news and that their role was going to be different — more about contextualising and verifying that news,” said Newman.

It also meant journalists were tied to the platform for announcements by politicians and celebrities — most famously the dreaded late-night and early-morning tweets from Donald Trump that left hundreds of journalists sleep-deprived throughout his presidency.

– ‘Tribal melodrama’ –

The dependency has bred many problems.

New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo spoke for many in 2019 when he wrote that “Twitter is ruining American journalism” with the way it “tugs journalists deeper into the rip currents of tribal melodrama, short-circuiting our better instincts in favor of mob- and bot-driven groupthink.”

By rewarding the most vehement voices, the platform tends to drown out the majority of the population — both moderates and non-elites.

“The debates that happen on Twitter are very much the debates of the elite,” said Newman. “It has definitely been a problem in newsrooms.”

“Paying attention only to Twitter tends to distort the way that many people, including journalists, see the world,” agreed Mathew Ingram, digital media specialist at the Columbia Journalism Review.

Though he hopes they have grown savvy enough to deal with the distortions, journalists have been subjected to a “huge tide of disinformation and harassment”.

But for all the frantic talk over Musk’s volatile tenure, many believe the site will survive.

“For the record, I don’t think it’s all that likely that Twitter will shut down anytime soon,” said Stephen Barnard, a sociologist at Butler University in the United States.

But he said journalists have good reason to fear its disappearance.

“They would lose access to what is for many a very large, powerful and diverse social network… (and) also a positive source of prestige and professional identity,” Barnard said.

“There is no real heir apparent in that space, so I’m not sure where they would go,” he added.

On the plus side, Ingram said, it could spur a return to “more traditional ways of researching and reporting”.

“Perhaps that would be a good thing,” he added.

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‘Stop the hate’ online, UN chief pleads on Holocaust Day

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A person visits the Holocaust Memorial, in Berlin, Germany on January 27, 2023, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

A person visits the Holocaust Memorial, in Berlin, Germany on January 27, 2023, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day – Copyright AFP Michal Cizek

The UN secretary-general warned of social media’s role in spreading violent extremism around the globe as he marked Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday, urging policy makers to help stop online hate.

Antonio Guterres said parts of the internet were turning into “toxic waste dumps for hate and vicious lies” that were driving “extremism from the margins to the mainstream.”

“Today, I am issuing an urgent appeal to everyone with influence across the information ecosystem,” Guterres said at a commemoration ceremony at the United Nations. “Stop the hate. Set up guardrails. And enforce them.”

He accused social media platforms and advertisers of profiting off the spread of hateful content.

“By using algorithms that amplify hate to keep users glued to their screens, social media platforms are complicit,” added Guterres. “And so are the advertisers subsidizing this business model.”

Guterres drew parallels with the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany, when people didn’t pay attention or protest.

“Today, we can hear echoes of those same siren songs to hate. From an economic crisis that is breeding discontent to populist demagogues using the crisis to seduce voters to runaway misinformation, paranoid conspiracy theories and unchecked hate speech.”

He lamented the rise of anti-Semitism, which he said also reflects a rise of all kinds of hate.

“And what is true for anti-Semitism is true for other forms of hate. Racism. Anti-Muslim bigotry. Xenophobia. Homophobia. Misogyny”

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Weird of the Week

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Weird of the Week

What happened when six doctors swallowed Lego heads for science, and the results of Santa’s DNA test. Plus, is Dolly Parton really recording an album with Slipknot?

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De mest besökta webbplatserna i världen – 2023 års upplaga [Infographic]

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The Most Visited Websites in the World - 2023 Edition [Infographic]

Google remains the most-visited website in the world, while Facebook is still the most frequented social platform, based on web traffic. Well, actually, YouTube is, but YouTube’s only a partial social app, right?

The findings are displayed in this new visualization from Visual Capitalist, which uses SimilarWeb data to show the most visited websites in bubble chart format, highlighting the variance in traffic.

As you can see, following Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the next most visited social platforms, which is likely in line with what most would expect – though the low numbers for TikTok probably stand out, given its dominance of modern media zeitgeist.

But there is a reason for that – this data is based on website visits, not app usage, so platforms like TikTok and Snapchat, which are primarily focused on the in-app experience, won’t fare as well in this particular overview.

In that sense, it’s interesting to see which social platforms are engaging audiences via their desktop offerings.

You can check out the full overview below, and you can read Visual Capitalist’s full explainer here.

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