The lines have gotten even blurrier since the Internet kneecapped newspapers. In the past few years, media companies called themselves tech companies, then that distinction became meaningless. In between, tech honchos spent their loose change on magazines and newspapers or just financed their own.
Today, in partnership with Twitter, a five-year-old New York startup called Dataminr, announced a tool that help will help CNN, and eventually other publications, find breaking news from Twitter's unwieldy fire hose. This is the first project from Vivian Schiller, Twitter's recently appointed head of news.
Dataminr had already been sifting through social media to help "big banks and hedge funds make real-time investment decisions," explains the Verge. Now they've adjusted the algorithm for journalists. According to TechCrunch:
"It is very quickly becoming an essential tool," said CNN Digital Managing Editor Meredith Artley.
Asked how the product can distinguish between accurate news and hoaxes, he noted that Dataminr for News looks at "after the first tweet information" to assess accuracy based on factors like whether there are "corroborating sources on the ground" and whether there are different "initial nodes" spreading the news. That won't guarantee accuracy, but he said it will allow journalists to "move up that confidence curve."
What people say on Twitter and Facebook becomes the story itself so consistently that an algorithm that, at least, tries to climb that accuracy curve should've been implemented awhile ago. Left unsaid in the announcement is that this encourages editors to privilege the kind of stuff that's shared on Twitter over things that have yet to make their way online. (There is still a world out there. Last time I checked.)
But what's more unsettling is Facebook's impending news play. Earlier this week, Re/code reported that Facebook was trying to hire actual human editors instead of an algorithm to "start telling you which news stories you should be reading," through Paper a "secret" Facebook project to build its own news app.
This is bound to cause some friction, noted Re/Code:
Facebook's efforts on Paper appear at a tough time for the company's publisher relationships. Facebook recently said it plans to alter the way it ranks News Feed stories, favoring some "high-quality" content at the cost of other items. To date, Facebook hasn't publicly elaborated what that means for publishers — which, as my colleague Peter Kafka previously reported, has given content companies pause.
Facebook editors jumping into the role of arbiters, then, could spook an already-wary publisher landscape — one which is increasingly relying on Facebook as a means of content distribution.
No few Facebook employees should have all that power.
To contact the author of this post, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Image via Shutterstock]