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Live Local TV News: Twitter’s Counterpunch to Fake News

May 31st, 2018   ||    by John R. Osborn

The school shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018 has spurred a national discussion about the politicizing of a national tragedy, as well as the reliability and potential abuse of social media around news content. Revealingly, the top social media platforms are now looking to local TV news to deal with false or misleading posts—and here’s how each of them is doing it.


Some of the tweets around the Parkland shooting were meant to confuse and obscure what was really happening. The New York Times reported that likely Russian Twitter bots and others jumped on this tragic event to seed discord and further divide citizens.

To counter the ensuing chaotic tweetstorm on Valentine’s Day 2018, Twitter ran a concurrent local TV news feed to show what was really happening. MediaPost quoted Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter’s general manager of video: “We’re continuing to work on new ways we can surface credible and relevant information to help people stay informed. By pairing live video with the conversation on Twitter, there is no faster way to see what’s happening in the world.”


Facebook announced in January that it was “updating News Feed to prioritize local news so that you can see topics that have a direct impact on you…and discover what’s happening in your local area.” Following CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress, the company posted a three-part approach to monitoring fake news and taking action. Called “Remove/Reduce/Inform,” the approach includes “a feature that gives people more background on both the publisher and the article” to help with source credibility. Local TV news could be an important part of this feature.

Still, after the sloppy personal data stewardship displayed in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook will need to offer marketers safe environments, compelling targeting, and increased care around consumer data. Meanwhile, critics are asking for greater government regulation and oversight.


While Google is not necessarily a social media platform, its products open doors for social commentary, and the company has been accused of facilitating the spread of fake news through its search features and YouTube. Over the past six months, the company has announced steps toward amelioration, including hiring 10,000 new employees and using artificial intelligence to remove incendiary and inappropriate user-posted content. Still, as a New York Times article on Google’s first reported Q4 2017 filtering results suggests, there’s a tone of skepticism around whether the problems are truly being solved.

Why It Matters So Much

It’s fascinating to see Twitter and Facebook both turning to established local news producers as the most trusted way to inform users about volatile events, before those users can even be confused by divisive provocations. Why? Because local news consistently ranks as the most trusted source for insight into what’s really happening.

As a MediaPost commentary advised: “Facebook, Twitter, and Google, just put down those potential news stories and do what you do best: Get [out] of the way and let professionals take the wheel—and/or oversight. In-house journalists, news producers, and editors are not your forte.”

What Can Local TV News Do Now?

Local news is an antidote chosen by social media against the poison of instantaneous, fake, and fear-inciting reports and comments. It’s more important than ever that local providers continue to prioritize reliability, objectivity, and transparency when it comes to news. There are opportunities today for local TV news stations and station groups to support and even partner with social media platforms desperately searching for a truth-and-objectivity countermove against the floods of deceptive and manipulative postings.

As has been said here before, “It’s time for television to start considering how to be a leader in transparency, even as its landscape changes.”

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