If you're still using X (formerly known as Twitter) as a reliable source of news in 2023, you shouldn't be. The site was recently called out by the European Union (EU) recently for being the worst platform on the web for disinformation.
With the Musk-owned platform recently axing a feature that allows users to report political misinformation, this news shouldn't come as a big surprise.
But for those concerned about the spread of disinformation online, we outline how the EU came to their conclusion, as well as what steps readers can take to cut fake news from their timelines.
X Is the Worst Online Platform for Disinformation
In the least surprising news that's emerged this year, Elon Musk's controversial social media app X has been found to have the largest “ratio of discoverability” of disinformation out of any other major online platform, according to a recent report from the EU's Code of Practice on Disinformation.
The social media site, which underwent a rebrand this April, was assessed in a pilot phase to evaluate a new testing methodology for discovering disinformation online. Aside from discovering that X had the worst track record for disinformation, the study also found out unverified content was more likely to be posted by users with high follower counts.
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“Mr Musk knows that he is not off the hook by leaving the code of practice, because now we have the Digital Services Act fully enforced,” – Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, Vera Jourová
X withdrew its participation in the EU's Code of Practice in May, but the project still has 44 signatories including major names like TikTok, Facebook, Google, and YouTube.
But X isn't the only platform fighting disinformation. Between January and April this year, the report also revealed that Google removed over 400 YouTube channels after they were found guilty of peddling Russian-state-sponsored content, with Meta, TikTok, and Microsoft taking similar actions.
Why Fake News Is Rife on Elon Musk's X
Twitter has never been considered to be a beacon of truth, but since Musk took the helm last October, the platform's fake news problem has gone from bad to worse.
Musk's disregard for accurate information was first highlighted in November, when Twitter's content moderation and disinformation divisions were disproportionately impacted by the company's ruthless round of firings.
Teams responsible for monitoring fake news across the platform were dismantled even further in January, with offices in Dublin and Singapore bearing the biggest brunt. The Tesla CEO has continued to deprioritize fact-checking into this year's election cycle too, by disabling a feature that lets users report misleading political information earlier this week.
A combination of X's deteriorating safeguards, a recent spike in AI content generation, and the fact that fake news spreads six times faster than truthful content has created a hotbed of misinformation on the social media app — with potentially very harmful consequences.
Falling for bogus information isn't inevitable, though, as we explore next.
How To Detect and Avoid Misinformation Online
Fake news can be almost indistinguishable from the real deal, but there are a number of steps you can take to assess its legitimacy:
- Check the source – This may sound obvious, but if you haven't heard of the publication before, alarm bells should be ringing. You should also check for typos and unconventional domain extensions as these can be major tell-tale signs.
- Cross-reference – If a story is only being reported on by one source, this should be a massive red flag. Always cross-check articles you're suspicious of to validate whether a story is authentic.
- Check the author – Checking if an author is credible is an effective way to practice due diligence. Have they worked for other publications? Do they have a good reputation? Are they a controversial figure?
- Check for satire – If the article sounds a bit too outrageous, it may be satire. These stories are normally pretty easy to spot, and there should be a disclaimer somewhere on the source website.
- Use a fact-checking site – You don't always need to do the legwork yourself. There are a number of quality fact-checking tools out there like Snopes, Politifact, and Fact Check.