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Threads Doesn't Want News & Politics On Its Platform, And That's A Huge Problem

4 min read
Alex Furlin · Jul 14, 2023

During the debut week of Meta’s new Instagram-powered social media app, the direct Twitter competitor Threads, the top brass at the new platform made one thing abundantly clear: Threads won’t be prioritizing news and political content in its algorithm

That’s a big problem for a lot of reasons. 

Though Twitter is perhaps the most useful social media tool in terms of breaking news, live events, and consuming news information at the source – whether from journalists, world leaders or public figures – Elon Musk’s changes ever since acquiring the site have all but erased Twitter’s use as a breaking news platform. 

In short: by changing the verified checkmark from confirming someone’s true identity to a signifier that they are a paying subscriber, it’s much more difficult to determine if an individual account tweeting news is actually who they say they are, or if they are just some random person who paid for the check. And recently, Elon has changed Twitter such that you have to be logged into the app just to view a Tweet – meaning Tweets that are embedded in news articles or Google searches are now completely unreadable by non-users of Twitter. This, in conjunction with restoring the accounts of Neo-Nazi users and promoting the visibility of their comments, has destroyed Twitter’s reputation as a go-to resource for news. 

In theory, Threads was in an ideal position to capitalize off of the lack of trust that Elon Musk has engendered in Twitter, and could have situated itself as a valuable resource for journalists, leaders, public figures, and the public at large to digest news information via social media.

But that’s not the case. The head of Threads, Adam Mosseri, specifically said that political and news content isn’t worth “the incremental changes in revenue and engagement.” Instead, Mosseri wrote, “There are more than enough amazing communities — sports, music, fashion, beauty, entertainment, etc. — to make a vibrant platform without needing to get into politics or hard news.”

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Users were immediately upset with this declaration, and understandably. With many viewing Threads as a much-needed breath of fresh air as it pertained to an alternative text-based social media to Twitter, there was an understandable expectation that Threads could finally deliver on what Twitter purposely removed from its platform: breaking news from actually verified sources. 

Those hopes were almost immediately quashed, as it became clear that Threads as a platform would be prioritizing brand accounts and non-political communities like sports and music. 

They really had their shot. And they completely bungled it. 

The way people digest news in our current age is incredibly fragmented. Huge swaths of the population distrust TV news and cable news – especially as those outlets become more deeply partisan and biased – so many turned to social media to access news directly at the source. But what happens when the major source of direct news is no longer trustworthy or even accessible, and its only real competitor specifically doesn’t promote news content? 

It’s almost certainly going to lead to more and more people tuning out of the news in general. And a less educated populace makes it that much easier for the powerful forces of the status quo to continue doing exactly what they’re doing. With less people aware of what’s going on, the wealthiest and most powerful among us will face even less accountability and less scrutiny for their actions – at exactly the moment when more accountability and more scrutiny is needed. 

Like all issues where our public and business leaders fail the interests of the greater good, the solution relies on us. Though Threads won’t be prioritizing news content, that doesn’t mean journalists and news outlets won’t use it to break and promote news stories. It just means it’s on the individual users to engage with news content as much as possible so that the algorithm is forced to spread it more widely. 

But this comes with immense risks too. As we’ve seen on Twitter, in cable news, and just about every possible outlet for information, the more incendiary or controversial a post is, the more engagement it will receive. Headlines and stories purposely designed to provoke outrage, titillation, or hatred get more eyeballs than sober reporting, no matter how important the sober reporting may be. So when Threads says it won’t promote news content, the signal that news outlets receive is “publish the most outlandish content possible, because that’s the only way it will get engagement on this new platform.”

Threads could have been a much-needed salvo from the rampant toxicity that has overtaken Twitter ever since Elon Musk acquired the company. But instead, it’s turning out to be yet another competitor in the race to the bottom.

What a shame. 


Political Polarization
By Alex Furlin
Alex Furlin is a freelance writer for Good Party.