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Meta’s Threads Is Unwittingly Becoming a News Hub in the Face of the Israel-Hamas War

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Since its inception, Threads has decided to steer clear of handling hard news—and the Israel-Hamas war hasn’t altered its stance. Yet the platform is quickly becoming a home for reporting on the conflict.

When Meta launched its Twitter-killer app in July, Instagram boss Adam Mosseri said the Threads app is “not going to do anything to encourage” politics and “hard news.” He clarified that the platform won’t “discourage or down-rank” such posts but that the company won’t “court” them either.

As Elon Musk’s X (formerly Twitter) becomes a hotbed of disinformation about the conflict in the Middle East, better discourse—albeit on a much smaller in scale—is surfacing on Meta’s online townhall-esque platform. Several journalists banded together under one post, introducing themselves to the community as reliable sources.

“Really feel like Threads is just getting better every day with more people joining,” CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski noted in a Threads post. “It’s impossible to get truly reliable news on Twitter with the current events in Israel.”

But disinformation remains a concern.

The EU wants Zuckerberg to fight Hamas-related disinformation
In the same vein as the letter sent to Elon Musk about disinformation on X, European Commissioner Thierry Breton also warned Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg to quickly address and remove Hamas-related disinformation from its platforms or risk facing penalties from the EU government. (TikTok also received a warning.)

In a blog post today (Oct. 13), Meta said it set up a “special operations center staffed with experts, including fluent Hebrew and Arabic speakers, to closely monitor and respond to this rapidly evolving situation in real time.”

In the three days following Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7, Meta removed or marked as disturbing more than 795,000 pieces of regional-language content. On Instagram, a number of hashtags have been restricted, and the use of live-streaming is restricted for people who have previously violated certain policies. The company also is labeling messages forwarded by people who were not the original sender, so that recipients can tell the information came from a third party.

Given the density and frequency of Hamas-related content, Meta is currently taking down content “without strikes, meaning these content removals won’t cause accounts to be disabled.” It’s also sharing tools to let third-party fact checkers more easily find and flag content, and to let users filter out offensive messages and appeal erroneous content decisions.

A non-exhaustive list of updates to Threads
While there were no comments about handling news on Threads explicitly, the company is working on sprucing up the platform. Yesterday (Oct. 12), CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced some new features, including:

✍️ An edit button. It doesn’t cost extra (on X, you need a subscription to edit posts) and users can make edits within five minutes of posting (versus one hour for X). A downside, though, is a lack of transparency, because Threads won’t show a post’s edit history (which X does).

🗣 Voice threads. Users can now record and post voice notes; captions will also be added to the thread once a recording is completed—a win for accessibility.

📈 A trending topics page is reportedly coming soon to Threads, according to TechCrunch.

A brief timeline of Meta moving away from news on Facebook and Instagram
February 2021:
On an earnings call, Meta shares user feedback suggesting people don’t want political content to take over their News Feed.

February 2022: Facebook drops “News” from its “Newsfeed,” rechristening it just “Feed.”

July 2022: Facebook places less emphasis on shares and comments for political content to reduce the amount of political content people experience in their feed.

April 2023: Facebook starts looking at things like comments on posts to assess whether a post is political in nature, to then take steps “so people don’t see several posts about politics in a row.”

August 2023: Meta pulls news from Facebook and Instagram in Canada in response to the country’s Bill C-18, the Online News Act, becoming law. (The provision forces large social media platforms to pay Canadian news publishers for sharing their content.)

September 2023: Meta announces it will “deprecate” Facebook News, a dedicated tab for news content, in the UK, France, and Germany in early December.

One more thing: Get the kids off social media
Several Israeli schools as well as Jewish schools in the US are urging parents to get children to delete Instagram and TikTok to prevent them from seeing violent images and videos related to the ongoing war.

Source: Quartz

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