The fast-moving world of Twitter has become the nerve center of the American news cycle — as evidenced by record-breaking downloads and engagement for the service last week, Axios' Bryan Walsh and I write.
The big picture: Twitter and other online platforms have opened a wide path for powerful images — like those of the killing of George Floyd — to reach the public.
- But the constant flow of sensational content from everyday users, often lacking key context and unverified, also promotes polarization and the spread of misinformation.
Driving the news: Over the past few weeks, viral videos about race relations in America have driven the news cycle, creating micro social movements within themselves — for better or worse.
- Police protest supercut videos have proven wildly popular online, per The New York Times, helping to spur the #DefundThePolice movement growing alongside the racial protests.
- A video of a woman calling the police on a black bird watcher in Central Park on Memorial Day also racked up over 40 million views on Twitter.
- In one story that recently went viral, a man was misidentified on Twitter and other platforms last week as the person who'd been caught on video attacking people for posting racial justice flyers in D.C. Online sleuths had wrongly connected him with the incident thanks to data his bike-riding app publicly recorded.
By the numbers: Wednesday was the number one day in Twitter's history for downloads with 677,000 globally, per app measurement company Apptopia. It also set a record for daily active users on Twitter in the U.S. that day, with 40 million.
Our thought bubble: Twitter sets the news cycle's pulse because so many journalists are addicted to it. Its power is in agenda-setting out in the open, instead of behind the closed doors of an editorial meeting.
Be smart: Twitter has long stood out as the social media network with some of the most news-focused users, per Pew Research Center.
- About 1 in every 5 U.S. adults uses Twitter, and 71% of those users get news on Twitter.
- While videos from one site are often reimagined and then reposted on other platforms, like Instagram and YouTube, often the raw footage from live news events is first posted on Twitter.