Has Social Media Ruined the News?

Can you trust what you read on the internet anymore? Social media connects people around the world in ways never imagined possible. Breaking news, like the Boston Marathon tragedy, sometimes hits Twitter before even the major news outlets can pick it up. Given the number of references journalists now make to activity on Twitter and the like, it can seem that social media has infiltrated traditional media sources from television to radio broadcast. Journalists have even started to rely on social media like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter as sources for their news stories. Sure, social media lets us break news fast, but are we really better off for it?

That depends. With social media, news certainly travels faster than with traditional media forms. In some cases this could provide lifesaving information to people who need to stay out of harm’s way. Given the viral nature of social media, however, share buttons are just as likely to allow us to spread false information as to spread the truth.

Social media ruined the mediavia joyoftech

Manipulating the Media

How many times have you become worked up over an article thinking it was actual news only to realize later it was merely gossip? Epipheo interviewed Ryan Holliday, author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, and possibly discovered the reason you read the rumors as facts in the first place. Holliday gives us a closer look at how he was able to manipulate the media to get bogus, anonymous stories to hit the front-page of major news media outlets.

Holliday points out that we can hardly trust news stories anymore because the system of news sources is broken. “In fact, the news may not really be the news at all,” Holliday said. According to Holliday, small blogs with little at stake tend to post stories with negligible regard to their factuality. Sometimes when these stories go viral larger media outlets like the Huffington Post or CNN publish the stories and, under the veil of big media names, we quickly forget that the original source was not the most trustworthy.

What is driving the media to publish viral content rather than the truth? Page views. Page views and money. The more page views a site generates, the more attractive it becomes to advertisers. To increase page views, publishers will do anything from post misleading headlines to postpone fact-checking until after an article is published. In the worst cases, publishers knowingly post gossip and speculation just to get attention.

Is there any way to find news you can trust? Not really. Given the current system of free media and publishing, social networks and publishers aren’t interested in catering to our needs; rather, they must do what it takes for advertisers to pay the bills, and that means publishing whatever generates the most page views.

facebook and you

If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer. You’re the product. <Tweet This>

Spreading False Information

Another major concern about the state of Internet journalism is that our news sources are vulnerable to being hacked. Recently the Twitter account of the Associated Press was compromised when hackers sent out false tweets about a non-real explosion at the White House. Sure, the AP quickly noticed the hack, suspended their Twitter account, and issued statements of clarification, but the damage had already been done. The false alarm sent the stock market temporarily spiraling downward.

Given that hackers sometimes take advantage of security breaches outside of the social media platforms’ control, it doesn’t seem likely that hackers will soon stop attacking the social media accounts of major news sources. Read more about how hackers gain access to media accounts, if you dare trust the source.

What do you think about the state of news? Have you ever read something online from a reputable source only to learn later you were fed a lie?

Cate Crandell
There is a lot of truth to this article, but I won't deny my gut reaction to hearing news is to turn to social media to find out more information. This digital age has turned the general population into super impatient people and we want the news as it's happening. If things are being reported in real time, it's expected there will be mistakes but the problem is once a "fact" is observed, I think it is very infrequently verified by the consumer of information (until someone calls it out).
Duane Aubin
Big Media can't compete with social media's speed But Big Media has a strength that is increasingly relevant - its fact-checking ecosystem That takes time though, and that is a challenge for Big Media since it is conflicted between its duty to society and its profit interests
Dave Gabbett
The more eyes, the less lies. But I still think we face the same old ages-old danger of village gossip, Daniel. It's hard not to succumb to a spectacular revelation and run with it. So, to tell the truth, I don't know if it really changes much in and of itself. It's like any other sword... or gun... in that it all depends on who brandishes it.
Matt Antonino
Sidenote: I don't think your Reddit button is working. I'm logged in and when I push the up arrow the 1 didn't change to 2.
Daniel Zeevi
Thanks Matt, I believe the button just shows the count though and you actually have to upvote it on Reddit (after clicking the button).
Michael Kornowski
many thx for the share daniel...
Mithu Hassan
Thank you so much to share the great article as always!
Daniel Zeevi
Thanks a lot Mithu!
Patricia Weber
As if the news is creditworthy already. This certainly adds to the lack of truth in news.
Daniel Zeevi
You have to be cautious about everything you read these days :)
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